Fence breaking elephants in Ol Pejeta

DSC_1391Here’s an update from Finny Taylor and Hannah Davenport, who are at Ol Pejeta, Kenya:

Once the sun has set over Mount Kenya and the cicadas have commenced their nightly song, a group of giants make their way across the plains of Ol Pejeta. They are heading for the fence that stretches around the 90,000 acre conservancy in West Laikipia, minds set on the array of crops temptinglygrown just outside. These elephants have constructed elaborate methodsto overcome the electric fence, put in place to protect the animals as well as the surrounding community’s crops. One tactic involves using their trunk to pull and push the insulating poles down as well as plucking the electric wire with their tusks. Some of the most notorious fence-breakers in the area have been de-tusked as a prevention strategy, however the elephant’s cunning and ingenuity means these raids are still occurring up to four times a week in Ol Pejeta.

As increasing amounts of Kenya’s land is fenced off for agriculture, elephants’ migratory patterns are disturbed. As a result, the necessary symbiotic relationship between the elephants and surrounding community is becoming strained; threatening the future habitat and lives of these clever animals.

A letter from Leonardo Di Caprio – if he’s jumping, I’m jumping


In 2012,  sanctuary around Antarctica was blocked by Russia, China and the Ukraine. But the letter below, signed by Leonardo Di Caprio, got over 1 million people to sign a petition in October 2012, which led to a new postponed meeting for July 2013 to discuss the issue of protecting Antarctica. The petition still needs more signatories to keep the pressure up later this year: 

I’m writing to ask for your help. Within days, governments could begin turning wide stretches of the Antarctic ocean into the world’s largest marine sanctuary, saving the habitat of whales, penguins, and thousands of other polar species from industrial fishing fleets.

But they won’t act unless we speak out now.

Most countries support the sanctuary, but Russia, South Korea and a few others are threatening to vote it down so they can plunder these seas now that others have been fished to death. This week, a small group of negotiators will meet behind closed doors to make a decision. A massive people-powered surge could break open the talks, isolate those attempting to block the sanctuary, and secure a deal to protect over 6 million square kilometers of the precious Antarctic ocean.

The whales and penguins can’t speak for themselves, so it’s up to us to defend them. Let’s change negotiators’ minds with a massive wave of public pressure – Avaaz will surround the meeting with hard-hitting ads, and together we’ll deliver our message to delegates via a deafening cry on social networks. Sign this urgent petition and share it with everyone you know:


More than 10,000 species call these remote Antarctic waters their home, including blue whales, leopard seals, and emperor penguins, and many are found nowhere else on Earth. Climate change has already taken a cruel toll on their fragile habitat, but they will come under further threat from the industrial fishing fleet’s mile-long nets cast over these precious waters. Only a marine sanctuary will increase their odds for survival.

The 25-member governing body that regulates the Antarctic oceans has already committed to creating these marine protected areas. But the two plans being negotiated — one to protect part of the fragile Ross Sea and one for East Antarctica — are at risk of dilution or delay. Shockingly, the talks have been off the media’s radar and countries like Russia and South Korea are betting their opposition will go unnoticed, but if we cast a public spotlight on the talks we can force them to back off, and encourage champions like the US and EU to push for even stronger protections.

The future of the Southern ocean is in our hands. Let’s unleash a massive surge of global pressure and ensure governments don’t put profits before our planet. Please sign and share this petition with everyone you know:


The Avaaz community has come together time and time again to protect our oceans. We’ve already helped win two of the largest marine reserves in the world. But the threats to our oceans continue, and one by one species are coming closer to the brink. Join me in saving the Antarctic ocean before it’s too late.

With hope,

Leonardo DiCaprio, with the Avaaz team

A bone to pick: lion parts and sham medicine


This article in the Guardian today reminded me of my experiences in South and East Africa where sham medicine is a very real threat to human lives. Something like 70% of South Africans will consult a shaman before approaching a ‘real’ doctor. Shamans are at the centre on township life and are often consulted before major family events. Usually the shaman charges the family in sacrificial goats or cows for spiritual advice. Whilst Mamacoqwa (pictured above) usually prescribes medicines from her herb garden to cure ailments, in serious instances she often recommends the bones of wild animals. Lion bones, along with rhino horn are becoming more and more precious in the alternative medicine industry, and the belief that they can be used to cure disease is becoming a worrying cause of lion hunting.


Tracking the tusks found in Singapore from Mombasa disguised as waste paper


Tracking the tusks found in Singapore from Mombasa disguised as waste paper

If the 1,099 tusks are to be returned to the country of origin Kenya, there may a chance for them to slip back into the supply chain of illegal wildlife products. Therefore, WWF-Singapore and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia encourage Singaporean authorities to incinerate the tusks once the audit and investigations are complete.

World Pangolin Day

This Saturday will mark the celebration of the most common victim of the wildlife trade: and you’ve probably never even heard of it – the pangolin.ImageThe Chinese pangolin, widely hunted for its scales and its meat is listed as Endangered. Little is known about these creatures, their nocturnal habits are part of the cause. But governments and large NGOs too have consistently neglected these creatures: their campaigns are usually figureheaded by charismatic species like rhino, elephants, and Bengal tigers. But the speed at which these animals are vanishing from East Asia means we need to act fast.

These creatures look and behave a lot like anteaters but they are mammals. Pangolins are hunted for their scales and their meat which is considered a delicacy. According to TRAFFIC, 22,000 pangolins were illegally traded in the Malaysian state of Sabah alone over the last 18 months. In Vietnam, it is estimated that 40-60,000 pangolins were killed in 2011. This is just a fraction of the vast numbers of pangolins that have been illegally killed and traded worldwide.

Though these animals are nocturnal and elusive, hunters have found ingenious ways to capture them. They are often kept alive until they are sold to be eaten, and are forced to live in unbearably harsh conditions. They are often force-fed starches to fatten them up.

We know so little about the pangolin trade that it is difficult to fight. We know that the Asian pangolins are at highest risk and once the pangolins run out in Asia, traffickers will shift their focus to African pangolins. The 4 Asian species of pangolin are on the brink of extinction already: it is time to act now before the same happens to pangolins in Africa. Image

Drones vs evil

ImageNew reports about the CIA’s use of military drones from Saudi bases to assassinate US citizens operating in terrorist organisations in Yemen have sparked global controversy.

Whilst we’re on the subject, here’s another good use for them. Commercial drones, much like those used in Afghanistan and the Middle East, but smaller and unarmed are being employing in the war on poaching. A sanctuary in Kenya, Ol Pejeta has begun using similar technology along with high resolution cameras with infra-red night vision to track rhino and poachers’ movements. Tracking movements like this could give park rangers a big advantage in protecting rhinos from poachers.

Extinction: Not the End of the World?

Calling all Londoners: The Natural History Museum is hosting a new exhibition on the extinction of species entitled ‘Extinction: Not the End of the World?’

David Attenborough, Britain’s cuddliest conservationist, who opened the exhibition last night said “It is not only about the past but it’s about the future, and the future of course is in our hands.

“If the natural world is destroyed, we destroy ourselves. That is a powerful and practical reason that this exhibition explains”.

Alex Fairhead, Museum developer has given this exhibition a unique twist: “Usually people only ever think of dinosaurs and dodos when they talk about extinction. In Extinction: Not the End of the World? visitors will discover the positive side to extinction and that the animals and plants we see today would not have survived if others had not first become extinct.”

Specialists have argued that extinction plays a key role in securing the evolution of species.

So should we bother to keep at our efforts in trying to protect tigers and orang-utans? Find out for yourself – check out the exhibition details here!


Copyright: Natural History Museum, 2013