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‘They’re like the mafia’: the super gangs behind Africa’s poaching crisis

Pressure is mounting against multi-faceted smugglers but the legal case, though strong, is enormously complex

Late on 6 June 2014 Kenyan police, acting on a tip-off, raided a used car lot in Mombasa’s industrial area. Inside Fuji Motors East Africa Ltd, in one of the lock-ups, they found two tonnes of ivory.

Days earlier a white Mitsubishi truck, its paperwork claiming “household equipment” but in fact carrying more than 300 elephant tusks secreted beneath a tarpaulin, had pulled into the yard on Mombasa Island’s dirty northern fringe, far from the tourist hotels and beaches for which the city is famous.

"A matrix of different organisations that collaborate to move illegal goods along the Swahili coast ..."

The biggest challenge is getting these criminal actors put away. It can take a very long time

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Have-a-go heroes: the women saving elephants in their free time

With one elephant killed every 25 minutes, the poaching crisis continues. But with the commitment and activism of a growing global network – dominated by women – laws and attitudes around the world are changing

If dedication and hard work were all it took, Maria Mossman would have saved every last elephant by now. Despite having two children, aged five and seven, and a part-time job for a large corporation, she also spends 35 to 40 hours a week as an unpaid activist. It was even more time when the children were younger. “I used to come home from work at about 4pm and then sit on my computer, networking with other groups and activists until two o’clock in the morning,” she recalls.

Mossman, 41, got heavily involved in elephant activism in 2013. As well as founding Action for Elephants UK (AFEUK), she’s one of the key organisers of the global elephant and rhino marches. “It’s really hard work,” she says. “Really stressful. Just before the marches you say: ‘We’re not going to do this again.’ And as soon as one is over you start planning the next one.”

Related: Elephants on the path to extinction - the facts

Related: 'If we stopped poaching tomorrow, elephants would still be in big trouble'

The poaching lit a fire in me. The barbarism of the act was so horrifying

Related: Why the Guardian is spending a year reporting on the plight of elephants

Campaigners have also been targeting other materials from endangered species – rhino horn, tortoiseshell and leopard fur

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Two rangers shot dead in Kenya’s Laikipia conservation area

The rangers, who are police reservists, were killed while trying to recover cattle stolen by nomadic herders

Two game rangers have been shot dead in Kenya’s restive north while on a mission to recover stolen cattle.

For the last year, Laikipia, one of Kenya’s most important wildlife regions, has been the scene of vicious farm invasions and battles between private ranch owners and communities bordering them.

Related: Armed herders invade Kenya's most important wildlife conservancy

Related: 'What can I do to help elephants?'

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Armed herders invade Kenya’s most important wildlife conservancy

Nomadic herders have killed wildlife and torched buildings but questions remain over the causes of the violence

Thousands of heavily-armed herders are invading conservancies, private properties and smallholdings in Laikipia, one of Kenya’s most important wildlife areas, as they search for pasture for their cattle.

Over the past couple of weeks, about 10,000 nomadic herders, armed with automatic rifles and driving 135,000 cattle, have left a trail of destruction and chaos in the county, just three hours drive from Nairobi. The herders have indiscriminately killed wildlife – from elephants, giraffes, zebras and lions to family dogs. Residents and tourists have been injured, some seriously. At least one person has been killed, according to reports.

Related: Water relief for 8,000 thirsty elephants neglected by Zimbabwe

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Dear Friend, Ally, Lords of the Earth

In 1967, Romain Gary, that remarkable poet of the spirit, penned an address to you, the elephants of earth, of such stunning clarity and beauty; it is a prayer for life. It made one almost jealous of your great startling species, so many years ago. I was just a little boy then in Paris. My grandfather had known Gary and helped to liberate my home town. I did not know the fascists in WWII. I did not fly fighter planes to deliver us from tyranny. I did not liberate starving prisoners who suffered the torture and ignominy of the camps. I did not partake of the horrors of that time. I am of another time.

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We can save elephants. But can we save wild elephants?

Elephants will certainly survive. But it may only be in ‘fortress’ conservation parks. Is there any way to allow elephants to stay wild?

I have just returned from Kenya’s North Eastern Province where one night, camped out in a dry riverbed with just a mosquito net for cover, a herd of elephants emerged out of the dark – a great and almost silent mass of shapes.

They passed through our makeshift camp, looming over us, their tusks white against the night. I was close enough to hear them breathe, to hear the sound of their feet in the sand. Another minute and they were gone, leaving me in one of those rare states – awestruck – in the truest sense of the word.

Related: Saving Africa's elephants: 'Can you imagine them no longer existing?'

Related: In a world of 7 billion people how can we protect wildlife?

Related: Debate: Would a legal ivory trade save elephants or speed up the massacre?

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Botswana’s historic break from pro-ivory trade bloc

. Yesterday (October 3), Botswana made a clear and emphatic statement against ivory trade at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered…

The post Botswana’s historic break from pro-ivory trade bloc appeared first on EIA International.

Future ivory trade is off the CITES table – and about time!

. CITES has voted not to adopt a decision-making mechanism for future trade in ivory – but what does this mean for elephants? After a frenetic and sometimes farcical afternoon…

The post Future ivory trade is off the CITES table – and about time! appeared first on EIA International.

Saving Africa’s elephants isn’t just a ‘white man’s job’

Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu leads a new generation of Africans who are taking control of their environmental futureIn the cool and serene area of Karen, near Nairobi, in the offices of the conservation organisation she has built, Paula Kahumbu...

Kenya’s elephants at home in the Samburu national reserve – in pictures

Though Kenya’s elephant population is stable and poaching is relatively under control, across Africa savannah elephants are increasingly under threat

Saving Africa’s elephants: ‘Can you imagine them no longer existing?’

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Why Can’t We Protect Elephants?

They need our help, not an easier way to make their carcasses into trophies.
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For Now, Trump to Keep Ban on Importing Elephant Trophies

The president reversed his own administration’s decision in an evening tweet, prohibiting trophies of killed elephants from being brought into the country.
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Trump Bags Another Anti-Obama Trophy: Dead Elephants

The administration is lifting a ban on importing elephant parts severed as trophies after the animals are shot in Zimbabwe.
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Trump Administration to Lift Ban on ‘Trophy’ Elephant Imports

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it planned to reverse a ban on the imports from Zimbabwe, following its earlier move to allow them from Zambia.
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Lions next in line of fire as US rolls back curbs on African hunting trophies

The Trump administration’s lifting of restrictions on importing elephant body parts from Zimbabwe and Zambia is not the last gift to hunting interests

Hunting interests have scored a major victory with the Trump administration’s decision to allow Americans to bring home body parts of elephants shot for sport in Africa. Another totemic species now looks set to follow suit – lions.

As the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was announcing it was lifting a ban on the import of elephant “trophies” from Zimbabwe and Zambia, it also quietly published new guidelines that showed lions shot in the two African countries will also be eligible to adorn American homes.

Related: Trump sons' hunting in focus as US lifts import ban on African elephant trophies

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Trump sons’ hunting in focus as US lifts import ban on African elephant trophies

  • Obama administration imposed ban because of conservation concerns
  • Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump are enthusiastic big game hunters

The Trump administration’s decision to loosen restrictions around the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia has turned attention back to the president’s family’s own connection to the controversial sport.

Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump are prolific big-game hunters and during the 2016 campaign, images re-emerged of the pair on a 2011 hunting trip posing with animals they had killed on safari, including an elephant, a buffalo and a leopard.

The GOP. Here's Donald Trump Jr. holding the tail of an elephant (party symbol) that he killed. #TrumpSacrifices pic.twitter.com/FIGkcH2F0t

What went so wrong with Trump sons that they could kill this beautiful creature pic.twitter.com/L1gquLQrRz

Related: 'There's no sport in that': trophy hunters and the masters of the universe

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US to allow imports of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe

Campaigners fear move by Trump administration will damage global efforts to end the ivory trade

Donald Trump’s administration plans to allow imports of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe into the US – a move campaigners fear could damage global momentum on ending the ivory trade.

In 2014, US big game hunters killing elephants in Zimbabwe were banned from bringing their trophies home, on the basis that the country had failed to show that it was taking elephant management seriously.

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Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello review – brilliant essays on immortal beasts

The meanings of Dürer’s rhino, Mozart’s starling, Darwin’s tortoise and others explored with wild imagination and pyrotechnic prose

Elena Passarello starts this extraordinary book with the image of Yuka, a woolly mammoth chiselled from the softening permafrost by Siberian tusk hunters in 2010. First a rounded hoof comes into view, then a hollowed-out eye and finally the flank still bearing evidence of the gash that must have done for young Yuka – she was no more than 10 years old when she died – nearly 40 millennia ago. Most surprising of all, though, is the burning smoulder of her pelt, which has kept to its unconvincing ginger-red despite the passing centuries. Whoever knew that woolly mammoths shared their hair colour with dime-store dolls?

As Yuka is flopped on to the snowmobile it is not her odd dislocations – most of her spine is gone although her legs remain rigid – that qualify as one of the “curious poses” of the book’s title (taken incidentally from a line in “When Doves Cry” by Prince). It is what happens next, Passarello suggests, that stretches and shrinks Yuka into something truly strange. First she becomes the object of hard financial bargaining as the tusk hunters hide her carcass in a frozen cave and wait for the highest bidder. Then, when the scientists finally get their hands on her, she morphs into the poster child for a “rewilding” initiative that aims to make extinct breeds live again by splicing their ancient DNA into the embryo of their nearest living relatives.

Passarello moves between musicology, biography and the golden throat of a bird brain with virtuosic ease

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The week in wildlife – in pictures

Pintail ducks, an elephant seal pup and an osprey in action are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world

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A green tree frog and an erupting volcano: Friday’s best photos

The Guardian’s picture editors bring you a selection of photo highlights, including a baby elephant and Melania Trump on the Great Wall

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Man jailed after rhino horns and elephant tusks are found in attic

Abbas Allawi is sentenced to 14 months for trying to sell on Instagram endangered animal parts worth up to £2m

A would-be trader in endangered animal parts has been jailed after rhino horns, elephant tusks and hippo teeth worth up to £2m were discovered by specially trained search dogs in a police raid.

Abbas Allawi, 52, was arrested when officers from the Metropolitan police’s wildlife crime unit searched his home in Gisburne Way, Watford, on 19 October last year.

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Man jailed after rhino horns and elephant tusks are found in attic

Abbas Allawi is sentenced to 14 months for trying to sell on Instagram endangered animal parts worth up to £2m

A would-be trader in endangered animal parts has been jailed after rhino horns, elephant tusks and hippo teeth worth up to £2m were discovered by specially trained search dogs in a police raid.

Abbas Allawi, 52, was arrested when officers from the Metropolitan police’s wildlife crime unit searched his home in Gisburne Way, Watford, on 19 October last year.

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