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YAOUNDE, Cameroon (PAMACC News) - The fight to track down poachers and protect endangered species in Africa’s embattled Congo Basin Forest reserve is tapping into the major international market routes that facilitates the illegal business.
In a major wildlife trafficking bust, Cameroon authorities have arrested six men for smuggling more than 700 kilograms of endangered pangolins and pangolin scales from the Central African Republic to Vietnam. Central Africa is a hotspot for illegally sourcing the scalIy anteater for Asia, where its meat and scales fetch up to $1,000 per kilo.
The Cameroon authoroties say international network of pangolin scales traffickers has been dismantled with the arrest on August 18 of six suspected traffickers in Douala with over 700kg of pangolin scales, thanks to long investigations into the market routes of the illegal trade.
The arrest was carried out by the Wouri Divisional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife in collaboration with judicial police and the judiciary after weeks of investigation.
"We are grateful to the local population that collaborated with the security operatives," said the Wouri divisional delagate of forestry and wild life,Georges Mouchaoui .
The operation that was technically assisted by an NGO called LAGA, was carried out during attempts by the traffickers to sell the pangolin scales. The first hearing of the case took place on Friday August 24 and three of the arrested traffickers who had earlier been freed on bail did not show up in court raising fears that they may have escaped. Two of the three fugitives are from the Central African Republic.
According to Georges Mouchaoui a couple of days to the operation, one of the traffickers sent a truck with from Bangui and it arrived Douala shortly after he had flown to the port city. The pangolin scales were then driven to a neighbourhood in the town, where an illegal transaction was about to take place but police arrived the scene of transaction and all 6 traffickers were arrested.
"One of them attempted to escape but was quickly stopped," he expalined.
The network accordingly, is spread in three central African countries including Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Central Africa and also Nigeria with strong market/trade connections to Vietnam.
One of the 6 arrested is from the Central African Republic while the rest are Cameroonians,security authorities said.
The exposed modus operandi of the syndicate consisted of buying the scales from smaller traffickers in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and exporting to Nigeria via Cameroon. Most of the 700kg of giant pangolin scales originated from the DRC where they have strong cover from members of the ruling elite. When the scales arrive Nigeria, they are assembled for illegal export.
The majority of the scales were from the giant pangolin which is an animal that is threatened with extinction , The operation that led to the confiscation of 718 kg of pangolin scales , was technically assisted by LAGA an NGO that assists government in the fight against wildlife criminality and the effective application of the wildlife laws in the country. The traffickers are equally linked to rhino horn and lion trophies trafficking and the LAGA, a member of the EAGLE Network is pursuing investigations on this.
Cameroon upgraded all three species of pangolins to the class of totally protected wildlife species following the CITES 2016 CoP that listed all pangolin species in annex I. The sub region is considered to be a hotspot for sourcing illegal pangolin scales that is exported mainly to Asian countries. Over the years several tons of pangolin scales have been seized in Asian cities that have originated from the region. it should be noted that in January 2017 two Chinese nationals were arrested with over 5 tons of pangolin scales ready for illegal export.
Government is stepping up efforts in wildlife law enforcement and last year it burnt close to 3 tons of pangolin scales that were seized during law enforcement operations. There is renewed impetus within the wildlife ministry to fight wildlife crimes since the appointment of a new minister at this ministry.
Story and Photos by Dagim Terefe
Editing and Visualizations by Annika McGinnis
Coordinated by Fredrick Mugira
August 2, 2018
In northwestern Ethiopia, a weed has grown out of control!
The invasive water hyacinth, locally named as Enboch is putting aquatic biodiversity of Lake Tana at extreme risk; harming agriculture and local tourism there.
Lake Tana is not only a water source for over 123 million people in the Nile Basin but also a source of various species of fish. It is a source of water for millions of livestock, and agriculture. And now, Enboch is threatening this life-giving resource.
In this special multimedia report, Ethiopian award-winning journalist Dagim Terefe reports that vast swathes of the water in this historical lake are becoming a sea of green while fish pens and navigation channels are being clogged by an impenetrable mass of Enboch.
GULU Uganda (PAMACC News) - Over one thousand Karamojong pastoralists facing severe starvation in Northern Uganda have been accused of destroying crops belonging to local farmers within parts of the region, as they move around with their livestock in search of water and greener pastures.
According to Paul Lopuk, the community head of pastoralists in Karamoja,the herders have been sleeping in the jungles, many kilometers away from their homes in Kotido and Moroto districts in order to graze their livestock.
"About 1,000 of them have established makeshift settlements in Alebtong and Otuke districts in neighbouring Lango sub region, west of their home villages," said Lopuk.
They are majorly grazing on stocks of standing dry grass left by waves of bush fire which sweep the region. They are grazing in Olilim and Omoro sub counties in Alebtong district. Security and local leaders have restricted them to graze in a small piece of land.
Lopuk says the animals are unable to feed enough due to lack of adequate green grass. “We are encountering few nutritive young green grass upstream. The animals don’t prefer the grasses in the valleys which is why they stray into people’s gardens” he told PAMAAC News.
When the livestock could no longer derive adequate water from the mud left in valley dams constructed by government of Uganda, the pastoralists started to slowly drift away west of their villages, kilometer by kilometer until the distance became too much for them to return home and eat or fetch food.
Patrick Okello, a resident of Olilim says his three acres of Cassava have been destroyed by the pastoralists. He says besides interfering with the food security situation of the host communities, the pastoralists threaten women around water sources.
Wafula Ogumbo John, the resident district commissioner of Otuke district where some of the pastoralists have arrived says pastoralists without food have resorted to stealing food from host communities. In Ogwette Sub County for example, several acres of cassava have been ransacked by the pastoralists. In Ogwette, communities preserve cassava seeds by leaving them in the gardens.
Wafula says “in gardens run down by the pastoralists and their livestock, the cassava planting materials broken down have begun drying up. If not arrested, the communities will not have cassava planting materials when the rains return”. Cassava is a food security crop in this area.
According to Wafula, sick pastoralists are exerting extra pressure on public resources such as water, health care, production and sanitation situation. The sick ones have begun turning up at health centers after spending days without proper food and shelter.
“Medicines supplied to health center hosting the pastoralists are running out of supplies. We are working with Police to conduct surveillance and prevent the pastoralists engaging in criminal activities where they are seeking water and healthcare services among others” Wafula explained adding that 30 animals were stolen by the pastoralists from their host communities in Ogwette Sub County. They are yet to be recovered and handed back to their owners.
Like in Alebtong district, some of the pastoralists have resorted to cheaply selling emaciated livestock and uninspected animal products such as milk and meat to local communities in order to buy some food. The animals sell for as low as Uganda shillings 100,000. Karamojong pastoralists often migrate from their districts into Acholi and Lango sub region during droughts when there is acute shortage of pastures and water. This year’s influx stems from a long dry spell which adversely affected valley dams constructed by government of Uganda since September last year.
In January, Karamojong pastoralists entered Adilang Sub County in Agago district, another Karamojong neighborhood in Acholi sub region. They were accused of killing three residents they had encountered hunting in the bush. It is unclear why they killed them since none of the attackers was arrested but residents say the Karamojong cattle keepers are often aggressive. They want government to find permanent solutions to the unending search for water and pastures by the Karamojong pastoralists year by year. Hay conservation is a complete stranger among Karamojong pastoralists.
government and donors including the European Union have been attempting to diversify the economy of Karamojong pastoralists since they were disarmed of 40,000 assault rifles they used to protect their livestock, the major source of their livelihoods in the 1990s. The impacts of this intervention remains slow as malnutrition among Karamojong pastoralists remains high.
According to the African Union and the World Food Programme, one in two children in Karamoja is stunted. The UN agency says malnutrition cost 5.7 percent of Uganda’s GDP, an estimated 899 Million dollars each year. The UN WFP and African Union estimates that malnutrition will cost Uganda 7.7 Billion dollars in lost productivity by 2025.
The Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) says the Karamoja region has been experiencing water stress since December last year. The authority projects that the region will experience irregular light rains to set in around mid-March to late March, which will eventually lead to the onset of steady rains by early April.
“The peak rains are expected around early to Mid-May, and then moderate relaxation around mid- June. Overall, there are high chances for near normal rainfall over this region” a statement by the Authority issued on February 20th states.
Otuke district resident commission, John Ogumbo Wafula says government should invest more capital in building more valley dams for the Karamojong to store adequate water for the worst of times.
PAMACC News (NAIROBI, Kenya)
The world today committed to a pollution-free planet at the close of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, with resolutions and pledges promising to improve the lives of billions across the globe by cleaning up our air, land and water.
If every promise made in and around the summit is met, 1.49 billion more people will breathe clean air, 480,000 km (or around 30 per cent) of the world’s coastlines will be clean, and USD 18.6 billion for research and development and innovative programmes to combat pollution will come online.
“The science we have seen at this assembly shows we have been so bad at looking after our planet that we have very little room to make more mistakes,” said Dr. Edgar Gutiérrez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica and the President of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly.
“With the promises made here, we are sending a powerful message that we will listen to the science, change the way we consume and produce, and tackle pollution in all its forms across the globe.”
Over 4,000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials, civil society representatives, activists and celebrities gathered at the summit in Nairobi, which ran for three days.
For the first time at a UN Environment Assembly, environment ministers issued a declaration. This declaration said nations would honour efforts to prevent, mitigate and manage the pollution of air, land and soil, freshwater, and oceans – which harms our health, societies, ecosystems, economies, and security.
The declaration committed to increasing research and development, targeting pollution through tailored actions, moving societies towards sustainable lifestyles based on a circular economy, promoting fiscal incentives to move markets and promote positive change, strengthening and enforcing laws on pollution, and much more.
The assembly also passed 13 non-binding resolutions and three decisions. Among them were moves to address marine litter and microplastics, prevent and reduce air pollution, cut out lead poisoning from paint and batteries, protect water-based ecosystems from pollution, deal with soil pollution, and manage pollution in areas hit by conflict and terrorism.
“Today we have put the fight against pollution high on the global political agenda,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “We have a long struggle ahead of us, but the summit showed there is a real appetite for significant positive change.
“It isn’t just about the UN and governments, though. The massive support we have seen from civil society, businesses and individuals – with millions of pledges to end pollution – show that this is a global challenge with a global desire to win this battle together.”
A large part of the impact from the assembly comes from global support. UN Environment’s #BeatPollution campaign hit almost 2.5 million pledges during the event, with 88,000 personal commitments to act.
Chile, Oman, South Africa and Sri Lanka all joined the #CleanSeas campaign during the Nairobi summit, with Sri Lanka promising to implement a ban on single-use plastic products from 1 January 2018, step up the separation and recycling of waste, and set the goal of freeing its ocean and coasts of pollution by 2030. There are now 39 countries in the campaign.
Colombia, Singapore, Bulgaria, Hungary and Mongolia joined 100 cities who were already in the #BreatheLife campaign, which aims to tackle air pollution. Every signatory has committed to reduce air pollution to safe levels by 2030, with Singapore promising to tighten fuel and emissions standards for vehicles, and emissions standards for industry.
The global momentum comes not a moment too soon, as the UN Environment report, The Executive Director’s Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, lays out.
Overall, environmental degradation causes nearly one in four of all deaths worldwide, or 12.6 million people a year, and the widespread destruction of key ecosystems. Air pollution is the single biggest environmental killer, claiming 6.5 million lives each year.
Exposure to lead in paint causes brain damage to 600,000 children annually. Our seas already contain 500 “dead zones” with too little oxygen to support marine life. Over 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is released into the environment without treatment, poisoning the fields where we grow our food and the lakes and rivers that provide drinking water to 300 million people.
There is also a huge economic cost. A recent report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health says that welfare losses due to pollution are estimated at over USD 4.6 trillion each year, equivalent to 6.2 per cent of global economic output.
“We had two missions at this assembly,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Environment’s deputy head. “One [agreeing on action] is accomplished. The second we must start tomorrow.”