A biologist by training, Rudi Putra is dismantling illegal palm oil plantations that are causing massive deforestation in northern Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino.
Indonesia’s rainforests are among the most biodiverse on the planet, housing 12 percent of the world’s known mammal species. Only half of the original forests remain standing today, due to an astonishingly high rate of deforestation—an estimated 2 million acres are lost every year. Read more »
A biologist by training, Rudi Putra is dismantling illegal palm oil plantations that are causing massive deforestation in northern Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino.
Indonesia’s rainforests are among the most biodiverse on the planet, housing 12 percent of the world’s known mammal species. Only half of the original forests remain standing today, due to an astonishingly high rate of deforestation—an estimated 2 million acres are lost every year.
A large culprit behind Indonesia’s rapid deforestation is the growing worldwide demand for palm oil. It is used as an additive in packaged foods such as cookies, cereal, potato chips, chocolate, margarine, baby formula, and canned soups, along with a variety of soaps and cosmetic products.
Almost 90 percent of the world’s palm oil is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia, and despite a current moratorium on forest clearing in Indonesia signed by the president in 2011, much of the forest loss comes from illegal plantations that have forced their way into protected areas through bribes and rampant government corruption.
Motivation As a high school student growing up in the Aceh region, Rudi Putra showed an early interest in nature and animals. He studied conservation biology and fell in love with the Sumatran rhino, the smallest—and the most critically endangered—member of the rhinoceros family.
He became an expert researcher and tracker, leading rhino protection teams on field expeditions to track down poachers in the Leuser Ecosystem. This 6.4-million acre, federally protected forest spanning the Aceh and North Sumatra provinces is one of the few remaining homes for the Sumatran rhino.
Putra realized that in addition to anti-poaching efforts, his work could not be complete without addressing a much larger threat rapidly outpacing conservation: habitat destruction from illegal palm oil plantations.
Further studies pointed to the importance of the forest for the 4 million people living near the protected Leuser Ecosystem, who rely on the forestland for sustainable agriculture and water. The forests also provide much-needed protection from flooding, which has grown in frequency and severity in recent years. Putra began to see his work as not only protecting the rhinos and their habitat, but the people of the region as well.
Impact With support from local communities, Putra approached local police directly to enforce land protection laws and shut down illegal palm oil plantations. He spoke of the hundreds of thousands of families who lost their homes and loved ones during the 2006 Aceh floods and their struggles to access clean drinking water.
He also approached palm oil plantation owners and reminded them that their actions were against the law. After Putra showed them the boundaries marking conservation areas, some owners voluntarily shut down the plantations and gave the land back to the government so that Putra and his colleagues could conduct restoration work.
Putra’s sustained outreach and strategic negotiations, deploying carrots and sticks when necessary, resulted in the dismantling of more than 1,200 acres of illegal plantations in the Leuser Ecosystem. The rehabilitation of these forests after the clearance of the oil palm has recreated a critical wildlife corridor now used by elephants, tigers and orangutans for the first time in 12 years. The Sumatran rhino population in the Leuser Ecosystem has also inched up in the past decade.
Putra is now part of a fight against a new threat to the rainforest: a proposal from the Aceh provincial government that would legally open up large tracts of forestland in the Leuser Ecosystem to palm oil development.
In 2013, Putra organized an online petition to apply international pressure on the Indonesian government to enforce its own conservation laws and reject the Aceh government’s proposal. The petition garnered 1.4 million signatures, and has been widely credited with catalyzing international conversations between government officials from Norway, the European Union, Indonesia and the Aceh province.
Raoul du Toit coordinated conservation initiatives that have helped to develop and maintain the largest remaining black rhino populations in Zimbabwe.Read more »
Raoul du Toit coordinated conservation initiatives that have helped to develop and maintain the largest remaining black rhino populations in Zimbabwe.
Rhinos in Zimbabwe
Faced with shrinking habitats and the ever-looming threat of poaching, Africa’s black rhinos remain critically endangered. The promise of catching a glimpse of these iconic animals draws international tourists to private game parks, bringing much-needed income to several countries in southern Africa. But in Zimbabwe, tourism withered during a decade of political strife, and a small group of conservationists were left to work against all odds to protect the country’s remaining rhinos.
Currently home to the fourth largest rhino population, Zimbabwe has demonstrated a series of successes and failures in its conservation efforts. Following devastating poaching in the late 1980s, a strategic consolidation of conservation efforts succeeded in increasing Zimbabwe’s black rhino population during the 1990s. Rhinos were moved to areas in southern Zimbabwe as the flagship species for the conversion of cattle ranches into wildlife conservancies. Breeding projects were established and with the burden of rhino protection placed mainly on the private sector, rhinos showed exceptional population growth.
However, in 2000 the private sector strength of this initiative became its weakness as the government of Robert Mugabe turned ranching operations in Zimbabwe upside down. With the initiation of a radical land policy permitting the expansion of subsistence farming into the conservancies, some of the successful conservation projects collapsed while others proposed new shareholding arrangements, which are still not resolved.
The subsequent reduction in law enforcement in the conservation areas coincided with a sharp increase in the number of rhinos slaughtered by poachers supplying the illegal trade in horn, which is a rare and prized commodity fetching high prices in Asia. Although discounted in western medicine, the alleged medicinal value of rhino horns has been culturally established in Asia over many centuries. The increasing presence of East Asians in Africa has shortened the supply chain, allowing high market prices to be paid closer to the source of the horns.
Zimbabwean-born Raoul du Toit grew up with a strong conservation ethic, spending much of his free time in nature. He began his career studying the environmental impacts of hydro-power projects in southern Africa, but was then recruited into an international organization that coordinated rhino and elephant conservation work throughout the continent. From this position, du Toit saw how healthy populations of these species enhance biodiversity and wildlife-based development in Africa's semi-arid regions. He set out to promote innovative models for rhino conservation linked to rural development in his native Zimbabwe.
As a central figure in the development of the conservancies in Zimbabwe during the 1990s, du Toit was one of the few professionals left to keep these rhino breeding projects viable during the turbulent 2000s. With shortages of basic commodities and the catastrophic devaluation of the Zimbabwean currency, many professionals left the country. Funding for conservation projects evaporated. Prioritizing the interests of the rhino species before political considerations, and convinced that a professional team could still promote these interests despite the adverse conditions in Zimbabwe, du Toit and his team met the challenges head-on.
Today, the black rhino population in the Lowveld region has stabilized thanks to the efforts that duToit has coordinated. Despite the turmoil that has threatened rhino populations in the southern part of Zimbabwe since 2000, there are now 350 black rhinos in the region.
The majority of these rhinos live in lands associated with the Lowveld Rhino Trust, which was established by du Toit in 2009 with support from the International Rhino Foundation and other donors to secure large swaths of protected habitat. These areas are now home to about 80% of Zimbabwe’s total rhino population and contain both private game parks and publicly protected lands. Today, du Toit and his small team work in and around the large Lowveld reserves to monitor rhinos, address injuries, reinforce efforts to tackle poaching, and build community awareness of the need to conserve rhinos. He also advocates on the international level for rhino protection and has helped reintroduce rhino populations in Botswana and Zambia.
Du Toit’s program does not simply focus on wildlife conservation. Instead, he incorporates international policy, biodiversity in the larger context, and land use to make sure Zimbabwe is constantly negotiating the balance between conservation and development. For du Toit, environmental stewardship and wildlife conservation are crucial aspects of Zimbabwe’s path to development.
To create economic incentives for local communities to conserve rhinos, the Lowveld Trust is assisting these communities to acquire rhino breeding stock in adjacent conservancies, so that the valuable progeny can be sold to restocking projects in the region and the proceeds used to fund local schools. For du Toit, the birth of every rhino is a heart-warming achievement in the struggle to save this species and the ecosystems it inhabits, especially if that birth represents some tangible gain for impoverished people upon whose attitudes the future of Africa’s wildlife and wild places depends.
"Conserving rhinos saves much more than the rhino themselves – they are flagships for biodiversity and for national development based upon sustainable wildlife management in Africa." - Raoul du Toit
TuySereivathana introduced innovative low-cost solutions to mitigate human-elephant conflict in Cambodia, empowering local communities to cooperatively participate in endangered Asian elephant conservation.Read more »
TuySereivathana introduced innovative low-cost solutions to mitigate human-elephant conflict in Cambodia, empowering local communities to cooperatively participate in endangered Asian elephant conservation.
Elephants and Development Cambodia has a long history of peaceful coexistence between people and elephants. Its most famous building, the spectacular AngkorWat temple, was built out of stone and marble with the help of elephants in the 12th and 13th centuries. Elephants, then abundant in Southeast Asia, served as the critical heavy machinery, carrying building materials and providing the necessary force to hoist pulleys and move stone. Long revered in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, elephants continue to hold deep meaning for followers of those religions today. In Khmer history following the Angkor period, several kings believed that possessing rare white elephants could bring glory for the country. However, despite their cultural significance, after a period of unregulated development, Cambodia’s wild elephant population has dwindled significantly.
Cambodia is a country in transition, having emerged from a violent and isolated past under the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s and subsequent conflicts between the Khmer Rouge and Cambodian government in the 1980s. Now, growing as a constitutional monarchy, Cambodia has experienced a dramatic increase in population and an explosion of unregulated development. This has placed enormous strain on the country’s natural resources, particularly its now-fragmented rainforests.
Migration routes of endangered Asian elephants have been disturbed by this development, leading to conflicts between local communities and elephants. With their habitat decreasing, elephants are destroying farms as they look for food on the edges of the forests. Many rural farmers have been forced to relocate as a result of development in other parts of the country, tilling small tracts of land on the forests’ edges to feed their families. Desperate farmers have, in the past, killed elephants to protect their crops. These migrant farmers have no experience living in wildlife areas and no bond with the forests or the elephants. They are extremely poor, have little education and no political power to resolve land and livelihood conflicts.
Human-Elephant Conflicts Resolved TuySereivathana (Vathana) was born in 1970, the same year that Cambodia entered into a period of extreme political upheaval. In 1975 his family fled from the city and the brutal Pol Pot regime to the rural village where Tuy’s father’s family lived. Tuy’s parents, both well-educated, taught school in the mornings to the local children and farmed in the afternoon to make ends meet. During his childhood years in the countryside, Tuy developed a deep respect for nature and was particularly fascinated with elephants. Later, when he was awarded a scholarship to attend university in Belarus, he focused on forestry studies and returned to Cambodia committed to working to conserve his country’s natural resources.
As a ranger with Cambodia’s national parks, Tuy worked throughout the country, connecting with rural communities and learning more about elephant migration and ecosystems. In Prey Proseth and TrangTroyeng, two communities not far from Tuy’s ancestral home where 30,000 people live on the forest’s edge, he became aware of the lack of capacity within these communities to manage the human-elephant conflict they faced. In response, Tuy began developing his community-based model, spending time with the farmers in their fields and building their trust. He taught villagers how to use hot chilies, native plants, fences, fireworks and fog horns to ward off elephants. He demonstrated the benefits of crop rotation and diversification. Tuy encouraged farmers to alternate rapidly-growing crops such as cucumbers, which can be harvested several times a year before the elephants discover they are ripe. With this type of system, only one of many annual harvests would be damaged in the event of an elephant raid into a farmer’s field. More importantly, he fostered cooperation among the farmers to work together as a community, encouraging them to organize overnight guard groups to protect the fields. Tuy was also able to revive in the communities the national and religious pride attached to the Asian elephant, as many Cambodians revere elephants as sacred Buddhist symbols. Because Tuy understood the dynamics of this environmental problem, he was able to develop simple, effective strategies and practical solutions at the grassroots level.
During this time, Tuy, affectionately known as “Uncle Elephant” in the communities he works with, left his position as a National Parks officer under the Cambodian Ministry of Environment in 2003 to assume the role of Human Elephant Conflict Team Leader for the Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group, a project co-sponsored by Fauna & Flora International, the Cambodian government and community organizations. Tuy later became full-time manager of the project in 2006.
In 2008, Tuy helped set up schools and brought teachers to the isolated communities dealing with human-elephant conflict. He saw this as another opportunity to embed the elephant and wildlife conservation message into the community. With support from Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Los Angeles Zoo and International Elephant Foundation (IEF), Tuy was able to set up four schools. One day per week, these schools teach 250 children about the natural environment, elephants and other wildlife, and how to live in harmony with nature.
Since his work began, Tuy has seen significant success. At the start of the decade, elephant killings due to crop raids were not uncommon. As a result of Tuy’s involvement with the project, there has not been a single confirmed elephant death due to human-elephant conflict since 2005.
As elephant populations throughout Asia continue to decline, Tuy’s program has brought hope to local communities and bettered the prospects of endangered Asian elephants in Cambodia. Tuy’s model is now being used in neighboring communities and is being considered in other countries with human-elephant conflicts such as Vietnam and Indonesia.
"I want wild elephants and local communities to live together in harmony. Protecting and conserving elephants means we also provide home for other species to live." - TuySereivathana
Submitted by orvigfússon07 on Fri, 2007-03-30 15:32
Orri Vigfússon brokered huge international fishing rights buyouts with governments and corporations in the North Atlantic, effectively stopping destructive commercial salmon fishing in the region.Read more »
Multi-National Challenge, Innovative Solution Throughout the latter part of the 20th century, the once-plentiful wild salmon populations in the chilly waters of the North Atlantic dwindled to dangerously low levels, affecting not only the sensitive ocean and river ecosystems of the region, but also the rural communities for whom salmon fishing is a long-held local tradition and source of income. In the early 1990s Orri Vigfússon started an innovative, multinational initiative to buy out the fishing rights of commercial salmon fishers whose over-fishing was causing the decline. He represents a new breed of environmental leader who utilizes business skills and negotiating to effectively protect precious natural resources. Through his work, Vigfússon has succeeded in preventing the seemingly inevitable decimation of wild North Atlantic salmon populations. An entrepreneur and life-long outdoorsman, Vigfússon first became aware of declining salmon stocks in the 1970s while fishing along the rivers of his native northern Iceland. Speaking with others who lived or fished along local rivers, he learned the extent of Iceland’s shrinking river salmon populations. In response, Vigfússon founded the Iceland-based North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF). Five Million Salmon Saved Since 1989 the organization has raised US$35 million to buy the netting rights from commercial fishers across the North Atlantic, essentially paying commercial fishermen not to fish salmon in the North Atlantic. NASF has also brokered moratorium agreements with several national governments. These efforts have dramatically improved salmon fish stocks in numerous countries. According to NASF estimates, commercial open-sea fishing in the Atlantic has dropped by more than 75 percent in the last 15 years, and river anglers in several countries in areas where nets have been closed have reported substantial increases in salmon catches. NASF estimates that in excess of five million North Atlantic salmon have been saved to date. Local Support Leads to International Changes In order for the buyout system to be successful, Vigfússon had to succeed on a number of fronts. He has to raise millions of dollars to compensate the commercial fishermen for the loss of income they suffer in giving up salmon fishing. The agreements are designed to cover a fixed period of years but the hope is that by the time the agreements expire many of the fishermen will not wish to return to salmon fishing. A large percentage of NASF’s funds, therefore, is spent on assisting the fishers to find alternative employment. He also has to negotiate with individual governments in order to persuade them to provide matched funding and to change the policies and economic decisions that have previously influenced their fishing industry practices. To ensure the sustainability of these efforts, Vigfússon began promoting viable economic alternatives for salmon fishers including snow crab and lumpfish caviar harvesting. In the beginning, Vigfússon reached out to a variety of stakeholders across Iceland, Europe and North America to convince them of the need to address the over-fishing problem. He met with residents of river communities and local anglers, who were all experiencing declining numbers of river salmon. He began discussions with commercial salmon fishers, talking openly with them about the extent of the problem from both an environmental and economic point of view, including how their own livelihoods were being affected. After raising significant grassroots support, Vigfússon approached governments, introducing his idea of the buyout agreements. With a mind for business and a passion for his cause, Vigfússon has since brokered multi-million dollar buyouts or moratorium agreements with commercial salmon fishers in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Wales, England, Greenland, France and Norway. Recently, Vigfússon and NASF´s branches in the UK and Northern Ireland brokered agreements to buy out the remaining drift nets in partnership with the authorities. In November 2006, after years of campaigning and negotiating by NASF, Ireland finally announced that it would buy out all of the country’s salmon drift-netting licenses. As part of the buyout, the Irish government will establish a hardship fund of more than US$39 million to address the financial losses that Irish salmon fishers will face, as well as providing an additional US$7 million fund to help rural communities deal with the loss of income. This development represents one of the final steps in Vigfússon’s vision of securing a complete halt to salmon fishing at sea in the North Atlantic. Vigfússon is now focused on the remaining interceptory coastal nets in Scotland and Norway, the last countries to operate major mixed-stock fisheries that prevent many returning salmon from reaching their native rivers. The governments in both countries have been slow to act and are reluctant to work with civil society groups such as NASF. As a result, both countries face significant negative impacts to the salmon stocks on their local rivers.
“My objective is to restore the abundance of wild salmon that formerly existed on both sides of the North Atlantic. This can only be achieved by safeguarding the fish at sea. If the numbers of salmon and many other species of fish are to be rebuilt, we must also protect the whole marine food chain.”
Kenya’s “Rhino Man” walked thousands of miles in East Africa, Europe and North America to raise public awareness and money for the endangered black rhinoceros.
Michael Werikhe (d. 1999), fondly known to many as "The Rhino Man," was raised in Mombasa on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast. A lifelong protector of animals, Werikhe has walked thousands of miles on several continents to educate people around the world about the plight of the rhinoceros. Read more »
Kenya’s “Rhino Man” walked thousands of miles in East Africa, Europe and North America to raise public awareness and money for the endangered black rhinoceros.
Michael Werikhe (d. 1999), fondly known to many as "The Rhino Man," was raised in Mombasa on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast. A lifelong protector of animals, Werikhe has walked thousands of miles on several continents to educate people around the world about the plight of the rhinoceros.
Poaching, fueled by the international black market's demand for rhino horn, has been leading the rhino toward extinction. Thirty years ago black rhinos had a population of approximately 100,000. The animal is now virtually extinct in several African countries including Chad, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).
Werikhe's approach was creative and his goal straightforward: undertaking long walks to help save the animal he viewed as the symbol of environmental crisis. On these "Rhino Walks," Werikhe educated the people who joined him and raised funds for rhino conservation programs. This work was dangerous as he was frequently threatened by poachers.
Werikhe has traversed Africa, Europe and the United States capturing the imagination of young people wherever he goes. The money he has raised has aided the Kenyan government in its development of large, fenced, guarded tracts of land where rhinos can breed and survive. Animals from threatened areas are transported to these sanctuaries and, for the first time in years, the rhino population is reported to be on the increase. The black rhino population is currently estimated to be just over 2,000. The southern white rhino has fared slightly better. There are thought to be 8,800 of them.
Rhino horns are, however, still for sale on the international black market. In late 1993, Werikhe led two well-publicized walks in Taiwan, one of the biggest consumers of rhino horns in Asia. He visited many traditional medicine shops and encouraged the medicine men and the Taiwanese government to work together to educate the public about alternatives to rhino horn powder.
Prior to his passing 1999, Werikhe was active with the Rhino project at Kenya's Tsavo East National Park, 290 kilometers from Mombasa. In 1998 heavy rains and summer fires damaged the park severely. Werikhe was joined by a group of teenage school boys from England who raised money for Save the Rhino International and together they helped rangers at Tsavo East rebuild park infrastructure.
"If there is no hope for an animal so huge, strong and recognizable, what hope is there for lesser animals - the reptiles, the monkeys, etc."
Submitted by eurutagarama01 on Tue, 2006-03-07 11:00
A conservationist, Eugène Rutagarama risked his life to save 355 of the world’s last 650 mountain gorillas that were threatened by Rwanda’s war and massacres in the 1990s. He helped rebuild the national parks system and protect gorilla habitat.Read more »
The human suffering in Rwanda during the 1990s was incalculable, but without intervention the victims of war might have included a group of humanity's most endangered relatives mountain gorillas. Only about 650 mountain gorillas exist worldwide, some 355 in the Volcano National Park in the Virungas mountains straddling Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Thanks to Eugène Rutagarama, the Virungas' fragile mountain gorilla population survived the war and the recent conflicts in the DRC. Indeed, the population has grown by 11 percent since 1989. Identified as a Tutsi, Rutagarama has endured a lifetime of persecution from the country's Hutu extremists. He escaped prison in 1991 and fled to Burundi with his family. Following the 1994 genocide, which took the lives of most of Rutagarama's relatives, he returned to Rwanda to help revive the weakened national parks. Although tourism provides important income to Rwanda, the protected areas administered by the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks were in jeopardy as the government tried to resettle more than two million people. Rutagarama created and garnered support for a strategic plan that led to the agency's rehabilitation, ensuring that the protected areas and mountain gorilla habitat were not overrun. Risking his life, he repeatedly traveled to hostile territories to deliver funds and supplies to park rangers in the DRC so they could continue their work. Today, Rutagarama works for the International Gorilla Conservation Program, rebuilding ecotourism, monitoring the mountain gorillas and building relationships with the communities near the parks.
"After a humanitarian disaster as horrific as genocide, the common struggle to preserve something of shared value, like the natural environment, can form an ideal for people to believe in. The opportunity and obligation to protect something precious can assist the reconstruction of a devastated society."
His films documenting the slaughter of dolphins by tuna fishing boats and the destruction of marine life by driftnet fleets led to “dolphin-safe” tuna and a U.N. ban on driftnets.
Starting in the 1960's, tuna boats operating in the eastern Pacific Ocean began intentionally capturing dolphins in giant, circular, mile-long nets to harvest tuna which often swim below dolphin herds. By 1988, over seven million dolphins had been slaughtered during the setting and hauling of nets. Read more »
Starting in the 1960's, tuna boats operating in the eastern Pacific Ocean began intentionally capturing dolphins in giant, circular, mile-long nets to harvest tuna which often swim below dolphin herds. By 1988, over seven million dolphins had been slaughtered during the setting and hauling of nets.
When biologist Sam LaBudde learned about the dolphin slaughter, he drove across the border to Mexico and managed to get hired by the owner of a Panamanian fishing boat. Once aboard he surreptitiously videotaped the dolphin slaughter. LaBudde's footage provided the first graphic evidence that tuna fishermen were indiscriminately slaughtering dolphins. LaBudde testified before the United States Congress and the footage was shown on national television, provoking outrage across the country. In the months that followed, LaBudde worked with the Earth Island Institute and the Marine Mammal Fund to launch the most successful consumer boycott in U.S. history.
By spring of 1990, the three major tuna brands agreed to process only dolphin-safe tuna, resulting in a 95 percent reduction in dolphin kills. Months later LaBudde returned to sea, this time to document open-ocean driftnetting, a destructive fishing method using nets 50 to 60 kilometers long. With this video footage, LaBudde led a campaign that resulted in a 1992 United Nations resolution banning the use of driftnets. Later he also lobbied for the passage of legislation which banned imports of tuna that is not dolphin-safe into European Union countries.
LaBudde continued to expose other forms of wildlife slaughter, including the illegal killing of walrus in Alaska for the ivory trade. He used his Goldman Prize money to establish the Endangered Species Project (ESP) to prevent species extinction and to foster preservation efforts for wilderness habitats. ESP also distributes portable video cameras to environmental and human rights activists around the world.
In 1994 LaBudde and ESP spearheaded efforts to expose Asia's illegal black market trade in endangered species which resulted in the U.S. implementation of trade sanctions against Taiwan for illegal commerce in rhino horn and tiger bone, and passage of domestic legislation in China, South Korea and Hong Kong to ban the trade. LaBudde and ESP also helped to establish and fund the Siberian Tiger Sanctuary in Eastern Russia. He also worked to create bioreserves in wilderness areas for endangered species, including a project for chimpanzees and lowland gorillas in Africa's vanishing rainforest.
"Species extinction represents the ultimate crime against nature and humanity."
Submitted by angiordano98 on Mon, 2006-03-06 14:34
Anna Giordano launched a campaign to save raptors being illegally shot for sport in her native Sicily. Despite violent threats and the firebombing of her car, Giordano’s efforts significantly reduced the number of birds killed.Read more »
Separating Sicily from the Italian mainland, the straits of Messina are home to Europe's most dedicated poachers. On both the Sicilian and Calabrains sides of the Mediterranean the steep hillsides are dotted with reinforced concrete bunkers owned by the poachers. The birds, primarily a delicate species of raptor called the Honey Buzzard, are shot for sport. In the assault, which has its basis in local superstition, the hunters also kill swallows, storks, oriels, kestrels and other migrants. Anna Giordano was 15 when she became aware of this yearly slaughter. She resolved to stop it. Giordano, who had joined the Italian League for the Protection of Birds (LIPU) at the age of six, organized an international surveillance camp for the protection of migrating raptors and storks. Every spring volunteers from many countries come to Messina to gather statistical data on the migrating birds, to learn more about them and to catch would-be poachers. Challenging men in this male-dominated society created open hostility toward Giordano. In 1986 she narrowly escaped the firebombing of her car. After this and another incident where she and a group of young people monitoring the migration were shot at, local law enforcement officers began to aid Giordano in her efforts to stop rampant poaching. Often working in the pre-dawn hours, the volunteer surveillance team locates electronic decoys that the poachers hide in the brush to attract the birds. Having just flown several hundred miles from North Africa the tired birds are fooled by such devices and land in areas where they become easy targets for the relentless poachers. Today, the vigilance of Giordano (a trained ornithologist with a doctorate in Natural Sciences), the young volunteers and the local forest guards make it very difficult for the poachers to shoot the birds. Whereas the number of birds killed each spring in Sicily used to surpass 5,000, the number is now down to a couple of hundred. The gains she has made over the years may be threatened, however. Sicily's regional government passed a law in August of 1997 that is very lenient toward hunters, who represent a strong lobby on the island. The new regional law contradicts both national and European legislation and Giordano is trying to fight it in the courts. Giordano is now director of the Trapani and Paceco Nature Reserve for the World Wide Fund for Nature on the westernmost part of Sicily. However, she knows that she cannot afford to stop monitoring the situation along the straits and, like the birds she protects, comes back to Messina each spring.
"If you witness something that is wrong, you can't close your eyes and turn your head. Your energy comes from the conviction that life is a treasure which nobody should destroy. Your will becomes the only thing that can turn hope into reality."
As chief botanist of the Okapi Faunal Reserve, Corneille Ewango stayed during the civil war to protect the reserve’s rare animals and plants and confronted military commanders to stop poaching.Read more »
Middle Name or Initials:
Democratic Republic of Congo
In the Congo's Rainforests, from Passion to Protection In his youth, Corneille Ewango, 41, helped his uncle who was an elephant poacher by collecting ivory tusks. As he grew older and his knowledge of the forest also grew, he embraced ecology and conservation. His passion became botany. As a staff member of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature and the Wildlife Conservation Society's Democratic Republic of Congo program, he was responsible for the Okapi Faunal Reserve's botany program from 1996 to 2003. Ewango helped lead the effort to protect and preserve the Okapi Reserve through nearly a decade of civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ewango is now a graduate student at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Found Nowhere Else on Earth The rainforest of the DRC represents approximately 50% of Africa's tropical moist forests and one-eighth of all tropical rainforests in the world. Unparalleled natural assets lie in the Ituri Forest, where the Okapi Reserve was created in 1992. The reserve covers more than three million acres, and houses 13 primate species, elephants, and animals found nowhere else on Earth, including the okapi, a forest giraffe. It also is home to the Mbuti people, commonly known as Pygmies, who have an extensive knowledge of the Ituri Forest. The survival of the reserve and the Mbuti are inextricably linked. Amidst political corruption, economic instability and a civil war that lasted from 1996 to 2002, Ewango applied scientific fact-finding and grassroots mobilization to protect the reserve. For example, by marking and measuring large research plots, he uncovered 600 tree species and 270 species of lianas (tropical vine plants). In the United States and Canada combined, there are 700 species of trees. When Others Fled, He Stayed Commonplace during the war was the illegal land grab of timber and gold, diamonds, and coltan, a mineral used in cellular phone technology. Chaos spread and, by 2001, most of the Okapi Reserve's senior staff had fled. Ewango stayed, bolstered by 30 junior reserve staff and 1,500 local residents who rallied around him. Courageously, he helped rebuild the confidence of those who had witnessed mass murder and rape, and together they worked to protect the reserve during the region's worst fighting. Ewango also ensured the survival of the 14 okapi living at the reserve headquarters' zoo. Treasures Saved In the very forest that Ewango sought to protect, he hid the reserve's herbarium collection, computers, research and data on 380,000 trees. To save his own life, he also hid himself in the forest for three months. As fighting in the reserve continued, poaching of primates and elephants became rampant. Ewango directly confronted military commanders and informed them of regulations prohibiting poaching. The practice was curbed. Looking Ahead When the war ended in 2002, the reserve was intact. Due in part to Ewango's bravery, a number of poachers were arrested or exiled, and injunctions against mining within the reserve were created. In recognition of his noble efforts, Ewango's international colleagues insisted he continue his studies. He received a scholarship to begin a master's degree program in tropical botany at the University of Missouri. When he graduates in late 2005, Ewango will return to the DRC equipped with newfound knowledge to further protect the nation's botanical resources.
"Separation is not an easy thing. You have to have passion to do it, to deprive myself of my country and my family that I love so much. But I know that even if what we are doing is not understood today, tomorrow we will be shown to be right."
Using sparse resources, Nick Carter brought together six African countries to create the world’s first multinational enforcement body to fight rampant illegal wildlife trafficking.Read more »
A multi-billion dollar industry, the worldwide illegal trade in protected species is the most profitable form of organized crime after arms and drug trafficking. Poachers and dealers in endangered species have historically been protected once they cross borders. Few are caught and extradition is often difficult. Nick Carter (d. 2000) was the first person in the world to document and expose large scale pirate whaling and then spent years exposing wildlife crime in Asia, Central and South America, Africa and Europe. He found that a failure in cooperation among national agencies often resulted in the ineffective enforcement of wildlife laws. This was particularly true in Africa. In 1992 Carter, working closely with Zambia's Minister of Tourism, took the lead in organizing Africa's first wildlife law enforcement officer's conference. Meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, the group of eight nations unanimously recommended forming an African inter-governmental task force to fight wildlife crime. Carter then overcame political inertia, antagonism and meager resources to continue working on the agreement with legal advisors from United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In September 1994 leaders of six African governments - Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia - met at a ceremony opened by the president of Zambia to sign the "Lusaka Agreement." Four nations have since taken the next step and ratified the agreement. Congo, Ethiopia and Lesotho have also agreed to sign, and each participating country has established a national enforcement bureau. Carter's efforts came to fruition on December 10, 1996 when under the Lusaka Agreement, the world's first multinational wildlife enforcement body to fight wildlife crime, came into force. Since then training programs for national law enforcement officers have been held in Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia.
"All is given; we create nothing ourselves; the breath of life is one with natural law. We choose to serve or not. Conservation is learning how to do it ourselves that we and our children may live."