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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

President Jacob Zuma Opens the Anti-rhino Poaching Joint Operations Centre at Kruger National Park (Video)

Operation Lock and the War on Rhino PoachingKilling for ProfitPresident Jacob Zuma recently gave a speech about rhino poaching at the Kruger National Park as part of government’s anti-poaching awareness campaign.

President Zuma, who donned a San Parks uniform for his speech, honoured rangers who have lost their lives working the country’s rhinos safe, and affirmed the importance of remaining steadfast the fight.

He calls the Kruger National Park “the epicentre of the poaching crisis” and commends “the brave men and women who stand between poachers and our rhino”.

SABC News has shared a video of the event:

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On the same occasion, Zuma officially opened the Joint Operations Centre at the Kruger National Park. The centre will be used the SAPS, the SANDF and San Parks officials to co-ordinate the fight against poaching:

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The Kruger National Park has released a statement on the event:

“We are pleased to announce that joint situational awareness through electronic means and live-streaming of information now informs in-time decision making, faster reaction and more often proactive operations,” said President Zuma. “This enables us to employ resources more intelligently and to be one step ahead of the poachers and their bosses.”

The President emphasised that battle against rhino poaching cannot be won without partnerships.

“The nature of this challenge requires our collective efforts as government working with the private sector, communities, civil society and the business sector to ensure the Integrated Strategic Management approach is successful, not only in South Africa, but also within Africa and in the rest of the world,” he said.

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Inventors, Philosophers, Artists, Scientists … Not Homo Naledi – Tom Eaton Celebrates the Heritage that Matters

The Unauthorised History of South AfricaTom Eaton, the wit responsible for The Unauthorised History of South Africa by Stienie Dikderm and Herodotus Hlope, has written a column about Homo naledi, the human ancestor recently discovered in the Cradle of Humankind.

In the article, Eaton says, “I know I’m not going to celebrate Naledi as part of my human heritage”. He sidesteps the massive excitement about the fossil discovery, but not because of religious belief or paranoia about racism like many people making themselves heard on social media.

Eaton rejects the family connection with Homo naledi, while recognising the species’ place in his genetic make-up, because he cannot identify with ancestors who “passed on almost nothing to their children except their DNA and their fleas”. Instead, this heritage month, Eaton is celebrating the “inventors, philosophers, artists, even a few warriors” and “the scientists who try to drag us out of the muck despite our determination to return there”.

Read the article:

Homo naledi is a racist plot using pseudo-science to link Africans to sub-human, baboon-like creatures.

It sounded mad, and Mathole Motshekga and Zwelinzima Vavi were jeered on social media for expressing it. I joined the chorus, because gigantic ignorance should not be tolerated in our leaders. But

I can also understand where such paranoia comes from.

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Julian Rademeyer: It’s Difficult to Sugarcoat it; the Rhino Poaching Situation is Incredibly Dire (Podcast)

Killing for ProfitJulian Rademeyer, journalist and author of Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade, recently spoke to Sam Cowen on her Talk Radio 702 show about the plight of rhinos in South Africa.

Cowen begins by asking Rademeyer to sum up the rhino poaching situation at the moment. He says, “It’s difficult to sugarcoat it; the situation is incredibly dire.” Since 2008, Rademeyer says, South Africa has lost over 4 000 rhinos, which is about 15 times the number that was poached in the preceding 27 years.

Rademeyer goes on to explain what is being done to combat poaching, and some of the ways that anti-poaching measures could be improved.

Listen to the podcast:

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John Hanks: The Fight Against Poaching is Futile; We Need to Legalise the Trade in Rhino Horn

Operation Lock and the War on Rhino PoachingJohn Hanks, zoologist and author of Operation Lock and the War on Rhino Poaching, is passionate about protecting rhinos and believes that the best way to do this is to legalise the trade in rhino horn.

In an article for DPA International, Kristin Palitza explains Hanks’ argument for his controversial opinion. Hanks points to the ineffectiveness the ban; the trade being made illegal has made no difference to the volume of trade in horn.

Hannks says, “We can’t win the battle by chasing poachers”. He illustrates that this approach is blind to reality, by telling the story of an impoverished Mozambican man named Albano Mapie:

Albano Mapie lives in a small village in southern Mozambique. He has been unemployed for years. Every day is a struggle for survival – until strangers offer him 1,500 dollars to kill a rhino in neighbouring Kruger National Park and saw off its horn.

A few days later, Mapie is dead. Rangers catch him red-handed and shoot him when he tries to escape.

When one poacher is caught, dozens of poverty-stricken others are ready to take his place, says South African zoologist John Hanks, using Mapie’s story to highlight the futility of the fight against poaching.

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Pembient Reveals a Bioengineered Rhino Horn that Will Stop Poachers in Their Tracks

Operation Lock and the War on Rhino PoachingKilling for ProfitA Seattle-based biotech startup named Pembient may be able to save the rhino from extinction – by developing a bioengineered rhino horn that is genetically similar to the real thing, yet cheaper than the current market price that continues to allow poaching.

Wired journalist Katie Collins reports that the company will reproduce rhino horns using 3D printing and keratin and that it aims to replace the illegal wildlife trade with with sustainable commerce.

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Markus told TechCrunch that “you can’t physically tell the difference” between horn from a real rhino and horn that has been engineered in the lab.

He says that many wildlife traders would be happy to use a genetically engineered substitute for horn. “We surveyed users of rhino horn and found that 45 percent of them would accept using rhino horn made from a lab,” he says. “In comparison, only 15 percent said they would use water buffalo horn, the official substitute for rhino horn.”

Pembient recently demonstrated their new synthetic rhino horn during an event organised by IndieBio, where the biotech company also announced a crowdfunding initiative in aid of the black rhino.

GEN News reports that the project is not without its critics. The executive director of of the International Rhino Fund, Susie Ellis, said: “Selling synthetic horn does not reduce the demand for rhino horn or and could lead to more poaching because it increases the demand for ‘the real thing’.”

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During the demonstration day, which took place June 11, Pembient also announced a crowdfunding campaign to sequence the genome of the black rhinoceros and release it to the public domain.

Both initiatives are meant to preserve endangered rhinos. By manufacturing synthetic rhino horn, Pembient hopes to flood the market, disrupting the illicit trade by bringing prices below the levels that induce poaching. It is a relatively immediate solution to a pressing problem. According to Pembient, poaching has increased over 90-fold since 2007, a trend linked to rising standards of living in Asia, where rhino horn is prized as a traditional medicine and status symbol. It is estimated that only 5,055 black rhinos are still alive in the wild.

Pembient CEO Matthew Markus told IEEE Spectrum that they plan to meet the demand for horns at one-eighth the black-market price: “We’ll make money; the poaching syndicates won’t.”

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Pembient’s process, Markus explained briefly, involves running synthetic keratin through chemical reactions to turn it into the specific type of keratin protein that makes up natural rhino horn. The company adds rhino DNA to the mix, and then turns it into a keratin “ink” that’s compatible with a 3-D printer. Finally, Pembient “grows” the horn.

For more about the rhino crisis in South Africa read Operation Lock and the War on Rhino Poaching by John Hanks and Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade by Julian Rademeyer.

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Don’t Miss Rhino: Hard Talk JHB, with Experts Discussing the Legalisation of Horn Trade

Rhino Hard Talk


The Poacher's MoonOperation Lock and the War on Rhino PoachingJohn Hanks, the author of Operation Lock and the War on Rhino Poaching, and Richard Peirce, author of The Poacher’s Moon, will be part of the panel of experts at Rhino: Hard Talk, an event hosted by Random House Struik and Cape Union Mart.

Chaired by Peirce, Hanks, John Brooker, Karen Trendler and Cristopher Galliers will discuss the question: “Would a controlled legal supply of rhino horn increase or decrease poaching in South Africa?” At the end of the discussion, the audience will be asked to vote on it.

The event will be at the Cape Union Mart Adventure Centre at Eastgate on Tuesday 12 May at 6:15 for 6:30 PM.

See you there!

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Julian Rademeyer on CNN: Rhino Poaching will get Significantly Worse Before it gets Any Better

Killing for ProfitJulian Rademeyer, author of Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade and recent winner of the prestigious Marjan-Marsh Award, was interviewed by CNN about the “inner workings” of rhino poaching.

Rademeyer, an investigative journalist, says rhino poaching is an “intractable problem”, and adds “I think it’s going to get significantly worse before it gets any better”. He continues that the Kruger National Park is bearing the brunt of the problem – “672 rhinos have been poached this year, that’s more than South Africa lost in 2012″ – and adds that the problem is growing in Mozambique as well.

Watch the video:

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Podcast: Julian Rademeyer Speaks to Jenny Crwys-Williams the Arrest of a Rhino-poaching Syndicate

Killing for ProfitJulian Rademeyer, the author of Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade, spoke to Jenny Crwys-Williams on Talk Radio 702 for World Rhino Day.

Nathi Mncube, the National Prosecuting Authority spokesman, spoke about the recent arrests and bail hearings of ten members of a poaching syndicate. Some of the people arrested are powerful and well-connected individuals. Rademeyer spoke about Hugo Ras, the syndicate’s ring-leader, and his previous trysts with the law.

Rademeyer says that the arrests are an encouraging sign, but that rhino poaching is still a system problem.

Listen to the podcast:

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Criminals in the Dark Heart of Rhino Horn Trade: An Article by Julian Rademeyer

Killing for ProfitJulian Rademeyer, the author of Killing for Profit, has written an article on developments in the trade of rhino horn in China.

In the article, Rademeyer discusses a convicted rhino-horn smuggler and the nature of his exclusive antique and collectibles business in China. He links this to larger trends in China’s illegal trade in horn, and similar black markets in other countries.

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Li Zhifei was the unlikely leader of an international crime ring. According to his business card, Li owned a small antique business in Jinan, the capital of China’s Shandong province. It was called “Overseas Treasure Finding” and Li was its treasure hunter. He boasted a small, but exclusive clientele of wealthy men who, for the most part, collected porcelain, bronze and rarities from long-dead dynasties. But there were three of Li’s customers with more illicit tastes. And, for close on two years, he eagerly obliged them.

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Video: Julian Rademeyer Interrogates the Effectiveness of Poisoning Rhinos’ Horns

Killing for ProfitJulian Rademeyer, the author of Killing for Profit, spoke with Derek Watts on Carte Blanche about whether or not infusing rhinoceros horns is effective in combating the poaching scourge.

Infusing horns with poison and indelible dye was put forward as simple solution to rhino crisis. Rademeyer’s suggests that the effectiveness of the the infusing procedure and its ability to prevent poaching was dubious and misleading from the beginning.

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