The Whistle-Blower – Who are the Poachers and where are they now?
They are hidden in plain sight where you will least expect to find them.
THE TRUE GREEN ALLIANCE (TGA) is a non-government, non-profit and public benefit organization that promotes caring for the earth and sustainable living practices throughout the societies and governments of southern Africa. It supports the sustainable use of living resources, and fosters the correct social and official government attitudes towards wildlife management (a.k.a. conservation).
The TGA’s vision is to create a southern African (ultimately global) society that understands and is properly informed about the principles and practices of science-based wildlife management; that understands the wisdom of, and necessity for, the practice of sustainable utilization of living resources (both wild and domestic) for the benefit of mankind; that supports animal welfare; and that rejects animal rights – the doctrine of which seeks to abolish all animal uses by man.
The TGA considers the application of honest science to be the only vehicle that can provide mankind with an understanding of the natural world; and with the information necessary for mankind to develop rational and effective methods to manage our living resources.
The TGA is a founding member of the newly-formed Sustainable-Use-Coalition of southern Africa (SUCo-SA) and it is represented on the SUCo-SA Board of Executive Directors.
The TGA is employed in a constant uphill battle to expose the carefully contrived propaganda fabrications contained in the never-ending animal rights confidence-industry. It is in pursuance of this cause that this report is issued.
Last week Aljazeera broadcast a TV documentary criticizing a Zimbabwean government representative, Tinashe Farawo, for supporting the view that, at the next CITES meeting in November 2022, Zimbabwe would be proposing a reopening of the international ivory trade. He was opposed by another guest, Will Travers, President of the UK-based animal rights NGO, the BORN FREE FOUNDATION.
Nevertheless, Farawo gave a very good account of his reasoning; the Aljazeer’s presenter exposed his totally inexcusable prejudice and his ignorance of the subject; and, almost with a look of glee on his face, Travers took an old and much roasted chestnut out of the fire.
Travers argued against re-opening the ivory trade by explaining that every time CITES offered one of its’ sovereign state members a once-off-legal-sale of elephant tusks, there followed a “spike” in elephant poaching. And he cited such an incident which, he said, happened in 2008. He concluded that the poaching syndicates are able to more-easily launder illegal ivory through the system when even just a small once-off legal sale is permitted. As you will see, when you read what I have written, that explanation is absolute bunkum.
NB: I will not be able to answer the Travers’ statement until I have explained the full background to Africa’s commercial poaching history. So, have patience and all will be revealed.
Unfortunately, Tinashe Farawo, seemed to be unaware of the background to the ivory poaching tsunami that swept through east and southern Africa immediately following the continent’s decolonising process. Had he known what transpired, he could have nipped Travers’ argument in the bud.
I now commend the TGA’s followers, and the SUCo-Group members in South Africa, to make themselves familiar with what I am going to say. I also recommend that, if there are any honest journalists in the audience that they too test every statement that I make. I would welcome an honest critique.
What I am now going to tell you is what I wrote in my book “ELEPHANT CONSERVATION – The Facts and the Fiction” published in 2016. So this information has been floating around the public domain for the last six years. And nobody has taken me up on any of my statements!
With the purpose of enticing the SUCo-SA people to read this information, I was asked by Dr. Herman Els (Chairman of the SUCo-SA group), if I would mind putting this information into a series of shorter articles which, he told me, would be more likely to be read by the SUCo-SA hunting fraternity than a whole book!
Kenya was declared a British protectorate in1895 and from 1920 became known as The Kenya Colony. The country’s Rift Valley and surrounding fertile highlands were reserved for white-settler occupation, and by the 1930s 30 000 European farmers were in possession of agricultural holdings in this region. Coffee and tea were the main commercial crops. To ward off competition, elsewhere in the colony black Kenyans were denied the right to grow coffee.
Kenya was granted full independence from Great Britain in 1964.
The illegal killing of elephants and rhinos, for their tusks and their horns, began in Africa when hunting licenses were first made mandatory. Subsequently, when a hunter killed an elephant without a license, it was considered to be an illegal act and the hunter became known as a poacher.
Prior to that time, it was not necessary for anybody to obtain legal permission to kill elephants and rhinos except, perhaps, from one of the local native chiefs. So, since time began, hunters in Kenya, and elsewhere in Africa, with few constraints, killed elephants and rhinos for their tusks and their horns. And, periodically, European hunters descended upon Africa and returned to their home countries with hoards of both commodities. These were Africa’s first commercial elephant hunters.
Serious commercial elephant and black rhino poaching in East Africa first began in Kenya circa 1970. It was during the presidency of Jomo Kenyatta, the founding father of the Kenyan nation. He is also the biological father of the present Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta.
After winning the Kenyan presidency, Kenyatta evicted many white settlers from their farms in the Rift Valley and the surrounding highlands. One sixth of the vacant properties were, ostensibly, reserved for the settlement of the landless and land-hungry black Kenyans. Many of these properties, however, were sold cheaply to the President and his wife, First Lady Mama Ngina, and their children. And, according to Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, throughout his administration Kenyatta’s relatives, friends and senior government officials benefitted from this same vice with wanton impunity.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Kenya was renowned for its wildlife plains-game spectacles and for its big game hunting safaris. Many professional White Hunters (a.k.a. Professional Hunting Guides or PHGs) attained almost mythical status. It was in Kenya that the safari, both hunting and photographic, was born.
During the early days, the white national park game wardens’ hard work and dedication to their conservation programmes became the proud hallmark of their professions. Nobody had preceded them, so the European PHGs and game wardens were treading on virgin ground. They had to formulate their own principles and practices for their professions, and to perfect adaptive management systems. During the colonial period, no black people were employed in the upper echelons of either of these occupations.
Kenya is a multi-ethnic country of great diversity and indigenous people of every kind took exception to the white colonial government, and to the white settlers who had dispossessed them of their land for agricultural and wildlife conservation purposes. When Kenya was granted independence in 1964, therefore, a crisis of expectation erupted in the country. With the subsequent takeover of white-owned farms, large numbers of former white settlers – some third and fourth generation Kenyans – became disenchanted and left the country.
Jomo Kenyatta, in the immediate post colonial period, when the white man finally no longer controlled the country, is credited with coining a Swahili phrase that stated:
“Now it is OUR time to feed”. And ‘feed’ they did!
Shortly after the white government officials had been expelled from Kenya and new black incumbents had taken their place, however, it became obvious that the wildlife administration was failing. Then, into the void, jumped the international animal rightist NGOs with offers of their (so-called and self-professed) special expertise. And they came with bucketfuls of money. Both were readily accepted by the new black government. Many of these Johnny-Come-Latelies were caucasians from America and England but, whatever their ethnic origins, it didn’t matter to the new black government just so long as they were not white Kenyans.
In 1970, it was officially claimed that Kenya was home to 275 000 elephants. By 1977 that massive number had been halved. By 1989 it had been reduced to 20 000. Commercial poachers had killed more than 90 percent of Kenya’s elephants in less than 20 years! This level of poaching was unprecedented anywhere in Africa.
The accredited animal rightists NGOs at CITES, unaware of the facts about Africa’s elephant numbers by generating rumours, fabricating massive propaganda campaigns and by exaggerating what they could only guess, claimed that the continent had had 1.2 million elephants in 1970 and that this number had declined to less than 500 000 by 1989. And these are the kinds of numbers that these NGOs placed on the table at CITES in 1989.
At the 1989 CITES meeting, the NGOs attributed the existence of a legal loophole in the articles of CITES – a provision that approved the international trade in legal ivory at that time – as the reason for the 1970s and 1980s East African poaching pandemic. But they offered no proof of this so-called fact. They offered no proof because there was no proof. They further stated that the elephant killing was carried out in collaboration with a huge Far Eastern (Chinese) poaching mafia, by greedy African village hunters. But there was no Chinese mafia!
The NGOs were so charismatic in their false assertions during the 1989 CITES debates, however, and so unreasonably forceful in their demands, that they persuaded the official CITES sovereign state delegates to vote in favour of imposing a universal international ban on the trade in ivory. They also had the elephant placed on the CITES Appendix I list, which effectively declared the elephant to be an endangered species.
There is, however, no such thing as an endangered species. Not in the science of wildlife management there isn’t! It can be argued that there is such a thing as an endangered population (better called an UNSAFE population) but NOT an endangered species.
And that is when the rot first set in!
The NGOs complained to UNEP (The United Nations Environment Programme) claiming that the Secretary General of CITES in 1989, Eugene Lapointe, had usurped his authority, for which he was fired. And from that day forward they have commanded considerable control over the workings of CITES.
Two years later, Lapointe was exonerated of all blame by the United Nations. Too late! The NGOs had proved themselves to be immune from criticism. They were legally out-of-responsible-control. But the damage had been done! It was then not possible to reinstate Lapointe!
What were the facts surrounding the elephants of East Africa at that time?
Here is an abridged version of a very fine article on this subject, relating to Kenya. It was posted on the internet by ‘Ma Vulture’ on 12th March 2012. It is entitled: “Mother of the nation who led plunder of beloved motherland.” It tells the story very clearly, and it corroborates several verbal and written reports that I have received from numerous Kenyans:
“Mama Ngina, as many Kenyans affectionately called their First Lady in the 1960s and 1970s, wife of President Jomo Kenyatta has a public image that radiates calm and dignity. When visiting her husband’s mausoleum every August (Jomo Kenyatta died on 12th August 1978), Ngina Kenyatta is always resplendent in colourful African fabrics and matching headgear, and she emanates the image of loss and courage, the epitome of pain and sacrifice.
“This mystique, however, is merely a façade. The real Mama Ngina is a powerful business operator whose aggressive pursuit of money at the height of Kenyatta’s power saw her rise to become the richest woman in Africa.
“That should not be surprising, however, for wealth runs in the family, with her son Uhuru Kenyatta, ranked by Forbes Africa magazine as the richest man in Kenya, and the 23rd wealthiest man on the continent, on account of the enormous land holdings that he stands to inherit.
“Mama Ngina’s claim to fame in the 1970s, however, is unique. Multiple but reliable media outlets of that time alleged that her enormous wealth stemmed from elephant poaching and ivory smuggling that almost wiped out the species from the landscapes of Kenya.
“Charles Hornsby in his book ‘Kenya: A history since independence (1963 – 2011)’, explains how well connected cartels smuggled several kinds of game trophy contraband to Asian countries, to mint millions of US dollars. The ivory and skins recovered from the butchered animals were smuggled into Hong Kong, Japan and China where there was an insatiable demand. He records that at least 15 000 elephants were killed each year (during the 1970s and 1980s) whilst 10 000 black rhinos were shot between 1973 and 1979.
“Senior government officials, particularly those who were members of the Kenyatta family, were involved in the poaching activities; and government vehicles were used to ferry the trophies from the wildlife sanctuaries to coastal depots from where they were shipped directly to Far Eastern markets. Legal procedures (like the issuing of CITES export certificates) were ignored, and the goods were dispatched without any legal export papers (but with presidential approval).
“Mama Ngina was cited as being ‘the chief butcher’, although she did not personally pull the triggers or unleash poisoned arrows on elephants. She was, nevertheless, the matron who protected, controlled and paid those who did.
“Mama Ngina ignored the grumblings in the Kenyan parliament and she, together with Kenyatta’s daughter from a previous marriage, Margaret Wambi – who served as Nairobi’s first female African mayor – got away scott-free with their continuous plunder of Kenya’s wildlife. The entire Kenyatta family, it seems, was implicated in the poaching of elephants, rhinos, and other wildlife, and in the illegal export of the ivory, horns and skins.
“It is not only elephants that were killed. Five thousand zebra were shot within 800 kilometers of Nairobi in a six-months-long shooting spree in 1975.
“Colobus Monkeys were also shot for their beautiful, long-haired, black-and-white skins. Two tribal hunters were arrested in 1975 in possession of 26 000 Colobus Monkey skins – but they were released from gaol two days later when so-called valid permits were produced. The minister of Tourism, Juxon Shako, banned the shooting of animals ‘for their trophies’ – which decree was totally ignored because the poachers simply bribed the police. Ironically, much of the killing was executed by Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Service personnel.
“During this era, an expatriot official, identified by two assistant government ministers – including the Nyandarua MP, Mr JM Kariuki – was amongst those who had been buying ivory, cheaply, directly from the game department headquarters, for export.
“In 1973 the sport hunting of elephants was totally outlawed by the then Chief Game Warden, John Mutinda, and he withdrew all elephant hunting licenses. It is alleged that he was pressurized into imposing this suspension by both Mama Ngina and the animal rightists NGOs who had offices in Nairobi. Nevertheless, the hunting of other species continued.
“ALL hunting was eventually and permanently banned in Kenya in 1977 at the sole instigation of Ngina Kenyatta. This was the final and cataclysmic event by which she rid herself of the only REAL opposition she had ever had to her poaching activities. The PHGs had been reporting everything that they saw in the wilds of Kenya – thousands and thousands of elephant and rhino carcasses – to the journalists in Nairobi; and the journalists broadcast these stories, internationally, far and wide. In one fell stroke, therefore – whilst looking after her own special interests – Ngina Kenyatta destroyed the entire fraternity of white Professional Hunting Guides in Kenya.”
There was no wildlife management reason given for that hunting closure. There was no reason for it! It was simply a presidential decree issued by Ngina Kenyatta for her own selfish and personal reasons. Since then, Kenyan NGOs have been trying to smother the cover-up by saying, obscurely, that the hunting ban was installed in accordance with the provisions of some strange, unheard of, and traditionally Kenyan anti-hunting virtue. It was, of course, nothing of the kind.
“The New Scientist magazine alleges that Jomo Kenyatta was personally involved in the poaching and in the illegal trade, as was his wife and his nephew, Ngengi Muigai; the then Attorney General Charles Njonjo; and the former government minister, Paul Ngei.
“From being formerly involved in the poaching rackets, JM Kariuki changed ships and joined a so-called conservation lobby led by hotelier, Jack Block; and he began pestering Kenyatta in parliament to stop the poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife products. JM was murdered in 1975 and there was much speculation about Jomo Kenyatta’s personal involvement in that event.
“Kenyatta-era minister and one-time Kenyatta-ally, Bruce Mackensie – who was later exposed as a British plant and spy – would later tell the British High Commissioner that Mbiya Koinange, one of the ivory racketeers and a close friend of Kenyatta, was responsible for MJ’s killing.
“In August 1975, the London-based Sunday Times exposed the alleged greed of the Kenyatta family in a series of articles that, inter alia, detailed the family’s involvement in ivory exports. It also revealed how Kenyatta personally approved the purchase of large farms by his family, exempting them from review by the Land Control Board.
“The newspaper identified some farms which the family had acquired in the Rift Valley, including six properties owned by Kenyatta himself; a 26 000 acre landholding owned by Mama Ngina in Kiambu; and her several farms in Rongai next to Kenyatta’s own.
“According to the Sunday Times, Mama Ngina had also been buying land on the coast where she built two hotels; whilst Mzee (Jomo Kenyatta) built Leopard Beach Hotel for himself which was registered under a Swiss company name.
“The newspaper also revealed that, in 1972, The Mombasa Municipal Council waived all rates on properties owned by the president and his family and listed eleven Kenyatta holdings in the municipal area. The paper also described how the family operated through overseas front men, such as George Criticos, and several Asian lawyers and accountants.
“The family was reported, also, to have vested interests in international casinos. In 1967 a company of Italian investors, linked to the Italian mafia, established the Nairobi International Casino with Fed Cambai (and, later, Peter Muigai Kenyatta and James Gichuru) as share holders. Whilst Kenyatta’s name did not appear on the registration papers, he owned the site and the building, and he received a third of its profits.
“Following JM’s murder, Ngina’s poaching activities continued unabated, motivating the US Wilmington Star News (2 March 1977) to issue a warning that the world’s last wildlife herds in Kenya were facing extinction. According to the newspaper, the poachers were well-organised and they used bows and poisoned arrows, poisoned darts, muzzle-loaders and machine guns whilst enjoying protection from ‘the highest authority in the land’. In the six months preceding the newspaper publication of this story, it is alleged that 16 000 elephants, 135 black rhinos and 20 leopards had been killed by Kenyatta-linked poachers.
“It has been calculated that Mama Ngina and her close Kenyatta relatives, were earning US $10 million a year from their wildlife poaching activities, throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 2013 Ngina’s personal wealth was reported (by Ventures Africa) to be in excess of US$ 1 billion. (Aged 89, she is still alive today).
When Ngina and the First Family, could no longer cope with the national and international condemnation, they issued a five-page statement through the Kenya News Agency, dismissing the poaching allegations. The lengthy report judged as false any and all allegations that Mama Ngina was involved in the poaching. It called the accusations blackmail and scandalous. Further, it considered the figures of dwindled elephant stocks to be guesswork.
“The organized poaching did not stop in Kenya following the demise of Jomo Kenyatta (1978). It continued well into the 1980s until, by the time of the CITES meeting in 1989”.
NB. Sources for this story include archival material from Kenyan and international newspapers, Wikipedia, and reports from independent investigative journalists since the early 1970s. Many of these reports can be accessed by Googling “Mama Ngina – elephant poaching”. All the above, therefore, is already in the public domain.
All this tells us that the political élite in Kenya is very familiar with the intricacies of elephant and rhino poaching in their country. Bribery and corruption, it seems, is also an active and ongoing way of carrying out their illegal business.
KENYA and Richard Leaky – The origins of the Ivory Bonfires
Prior to the 1989 CITES meeting, the government of Kenya burned US$ 3 million worth of elephant ivory, in a huge bonfire, just outside Nairobi. Its purpose was to focus world attention on the so-called “Plight of the African Elephant”. It was cleverly devised by Alan Thornton and Dave Currey of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a rabid British Animal Rights Organisation; and it was funded by Christine Stevens of the Animal Welfare Institute, an equally rabid US-based animal rights group.
Thornton and Currey documented their campaign, which ultimately forced CITES to ban the international trade in elephant ivory in their book: TO SAVE AN ELEPHANT. This was a book that articulated their classical animal rightists’ solution to anything and everything of which they personally disapprove: PROHIBITION.
It is as well to record here that Alan Thornton (OBE) was one of the original founders of Green Peace.
To achieve their objective, Thornton and Currey were guided in their ivory trade ban programme by Christine Stevens (AWI), and by Sue Lieberman who was then still only a senior executive of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), another rabid American animal rights group. It was Lieberman who finally convinced the US Fish and Wildlife Service to support the EIA-proposed CITES-ivory-trade-ban.
Very soon thereafter, Sue Lieberman joined the USFWS as its “Specialist-CITES- Adviser”. And after that, she became the Chief CITES Adviser for WWF (Switzerland), a post which she held for ten years.
These historical references should give everyone who believes in the sustainable-use of living resources, reason for concern; mainly because the US Fish and Wildlife Service is clearly portrayed as being tarred with an animal rights brush.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service, the EIA, the AWI, the HSUS, the WWF and many others are really all ensconced in one big happy family! Is it any wonder that Africa has trouble dealing with American wildlife interest groups?
Thornton and Currey gained support from the World Wildlife Fund (USA) for their crusade even though the WWF, seemingly, attempted to hi-jack the EIA ivory ban programme. It seems, contrary to popular opinion, that there is really little honour amongst thieves.
The EIA had their plans well prepared and well advanced. A prerequisite for the success of their campaign was to persuade one of the African elephant range states to submit the international ivory trade ban proposal to CITES. The rules of CITES prescribe that only a range state can make such a proposal. WWF-USA offered Thornton “on an exclusive basis, a fully documented proposal”. One of the EIA’s own people, however, had already prepared such a document.
Thornton chose Tanzania to be his tool because, among other things, the EIA had captured the sympathy of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania and because the Director of the Department of Wildlife in Tanzania had already offered him his cooperation. That is how it came to pass, therefore, that the State President of Tanzania signed the official CITES proposal to ban the trade in ivory, which document was then presented to CITES.
The US CITES delegation, not convinced that enough had been done to attract world attention to the so-called ‘plight of the African elephant’ and the need to support an international ivory trade ban, turned to Richard Leaky, the charismatic and politically opportunistic Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, to create the international focus that they required. It was they who asked Leaky to burn Kenya’s massive stockpile of elephant ivory in support of the Tanzanian proposal.
On the 18th July, 1989, Kenya’s new President Arap Moi, set alight the world’s first elephant-tusk bonfire, converting 12 tons of raw ivory into ash. The gesture was meant to send a message to the world: Kenya was putting muscle behind the fight to save its elephants and it wanted the world to do the same by banning the ivory trade. The Americans had, apparently, wanted an African state to make this spectacular gesture untarnished by any apparent American influence.
It has ever since been alleged (by many people and organisations) that “the brains behind the ivory burning spectacle was Richard Leakey, the (at that time) new head of Kenya’s Wildlife Service (KWS).” It was, however, not Leaky’s idea! But Leaky has never denied that it was anything other than his idea, which gives you a measure of the real person that he was.
In 1992, I published a book called THE WILDLIFE GAME. The editor of the Johannesburg newspaper, The Guardian and Weekly, took note of the fact that my ideas about the ivory trade were in direct contrast to those expressed by Leaky. And, it so happened, that Leaky was touring South Africa at that time. So, the editor asked me if I would be prepared share a public platform with Leaky at which, he proposed, we could each explain our respective beliefs. I acceded. So it was, therefore, that Leaky and I appeared together to publicly debate the issue. The confrontation took place in a large auditorium at Wits University in Johannesburg.
During the intermission, as Leaky and I sat behind the podium table amicably drinking tea together, I asked him about Kenya’s burning of the ivory.
“How can you justify burning US $3 million worth of ivory on a continent which is crying out for international aid, and when poverty faces many human communities in rural Africa?” I asked him bluntly.
“Hah!” he retorted with a smile. “You obviously don’t know the full story. You see,” he explained almost jubilantly, “A delegation from the American government approached me and asked me the value of Kenya’s then large stockpile of ivory. I already knew the answer. So I told them – US$ 3 million.
“Would you be prepared to publically burn it?” they asked me? “And why should I do that? I asked them.”
“Because we believe that you support the proposed ivory trade ban’, they said. ‘And because we believe, if the proposal is to succeed, it will be necessary to create a huge public spectacle – one big enough to catch the imagination of world society. A huge pile of burning elephant tusks will do just that,’ they replied.
“And what will Kenya get out of it? I asked them.”
Leaky smiled at me then. “That is how it started,” he said. “And, in the end, what did Kenya get out of it?” I persisted.
“We were given an outright grant of US $ 150 million to restructure Kenya’s tourism industry,” he smiled back at me. “This was followed by another US $ 150 million which is being spread over the next ten years. The second grant is being used to reinforce the tourism enterprises that we have set up with the original grant. The second 150 million dollars is a soft, low-interest loan. And we are in the middle of spending that money right now,” he beamed.
“So, you burned the ivory?”
“So, we burned US$ 3 million worth of ivory,” Leaky agreed, “and in return the Americans gave us US $ 300 million for doing so.” He then grinned like a self-satisfied Cheshire Cat. “So, at a cost of US$ 3 million, Kenya was given US $ 300 million. That, to my way of thinking, is a pretty good bargain! … Don’t you think?”
I shook my head in exasperation and asked him if he knew, by burning that ivory, just how much damage had been done to the long-term interests of the African elephant? AND, to the wildlife of Africa, generally. But he was not interested in debating the matter any further. As far as Leaky was concerned he and Kenya had “scored”.
The tragedy of this scenario is that the US Fish and Wildlife Service was running with their obvious animal rightist friends and colleagues who were all accredited NGOs at the CITES convention meetings. They were all a single team. Their objectives were the same. Their strategies were combined and running parallel with each other. And they were all working towards introducing prohibitions to the articles of CITES; when the purpose of CITES is to support, to facilitate and to regulate the legal trade in wildlife and its products.
This is the story that Leaky told to me, personally, on the occasion of us sharing that public platform at Wits University in Johannesburg. Four years after this event, Leaky produced his own book – ‘WILDLIFE WARS – My battle to save Kenya’s elephants’ published in 2001. In it he tells a very different story. He claims that the idea of burning the ivory was exclusively his own. He makes no mention of the American approach to him that he so gleefully told me about in detail. He also claims credit for making the successful international ivory trade ban proposal to CITES and claims that he “pipped Tanzania at the post”. He also makes no mention in his book of the 2x US $ 150 million grants to Kenya and what they were for. He does, however, write about how he allegedly, and personally, approached the World Bank and how he, personally and alone, succeeded in obtaining these kinds of monies for Kenya, mentioning the exact sum of US $ 300 million.
A friend of mine who knew Richard Leaky, and to whom I had told this story, laughed and commented thus: “Leaky is the kind of man,” he said, “who will not let the little matter of truth, or the facts, interfere with his telling of a good story – especially if it will heap some undeserved glory on himself.”
Dr Rolf D Baldus, President of the Tropical Game Commission of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (C.I.C.), spent 13 years working in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve (SGR) (1993 – 2006). He reports that records show that, in 1976, the SGR had been home to 110 000 elephants and that, due to commercial poaching, this number had been reduced to 55 000 by 1986. He claims that this poaching “had its origins in political and business circles in Tanzania, in the villages bordering the SGR, and partly within the conservation system itself.” He further stated: “During this time the plight of the African elephant became an international issue.”
In another report (dated 2005) Baldus, commenting on elephant poaching in Tanzania over a much longer period of time (1977-1993), claimed that, during this period, the country’s elephant population fell from 365 000 to 53 000. And he had this to say about its perpetrators: “Villages poachers and game scouts did the shooting, but ‘big people’ politicians, civil servants, businessmen and even hunting operators master-minded the slaughter.”
NB. Please take note of the following facts: Baldus makes no mention of the much vaunted Far Eastern commercial poaching mafia! Nor does he refer to CITES and/or to CITES permits in his report! He goes on to say (1993): “This is not the place… To reveal the details and (the) names, some of which are known, as many of these people are still alive.”
Knowing Africa and Africans as I do, I don’t blame Baldus for not being a whistle-blower under the circumstances of his employment. He is a survivor! Nevertheless, thus have the identities of the principal perpetrators of Africa’s several poaching pandemics been protected over the years. People who are in the know, have not been prepared to put their heads on the chopping block, by naming and shaming the criminals.
The previous president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete (who left office in October 2015), was, according to international media reports and retrospective assertions made by offended Tanzanian residents, “the mastermind” behind what is probably the third largest incidence of commercial elephant poaching ever conducted in Africa’s history. It involved the killing of 57 000 elephants inside Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve between 2008 and 2012.
Kikwete denies it, of course, but the government has openly admitted that, during his presidency, at least 11 000 elephants were killed in the Selous Game Reserve, by “poachers”, during each of the four consecutive years (2008 to 2012). The minimum number killed, according to this criterion, was 44 000! But this is not the complete picture!
As a foundation to this correspondence I have to tell you that Benson Obdiel Kibonde, the much experienced and respected Chief Game Warden of the Selous Game Reserve at that time, was sent by the Tanzanian government on a four-year-long transfer to the Pasiansi Wildlife Training Institute which was far removed from the SGR. No reason was given for that strange transfer. When he returned to the SGR he wrote a letter, dated 3 June 2015, to a retired friend of his (and mine) in the Unites States, called Dr. Andre Degeorges.
This is what he had to say in his letter:
“When I left the Selous Game Reserve in 2008, there were approximately 70 000 elephants (in the game reserve) according to projections based on the 2006 TAWIRI census (an official and routine game count). I was sent to the Pasiansi Wildlife Training Institute. When I came back in July 2012 I was shocked by the extent of the poaching that had taken place during those four years. The TAWIRI census of October 2013 had it that there were only 13 084 elephants remaining in the Selous Game Reserve.”
That told me 56 916 elephants had been killed by poachers.
NB. Kibonde’s enforced absence from the Selous Game Reserve covered four years (2008 to 2012). During that period the game reserve was plundered by what can only be described as a well-prepared and experienced contingent of elephant poachers. I don’t think anybody can doubt the fact that that poaching event was thoroughly organized; and that it could only have been carried out by the government of Tanzania.
“My challenge as the second-time-round Selous Chief Warden was to stop the carnage and to reverse the population’s downward trend. I did it. Poaching has been stopped in Selous. And the TAWIRI 2014 census has it that we now have 15 000 elephants in the reserve.”
“Andre, …” Kibonde then emphasized: “Remember that 100% of the poaching in our protected areas in Tanzania is 100% the making of Tanzanians”. I have to wonder at the purpose of this remark. WHAT was Kibonde implying?
A telling detail of evidence is that wherever he went, Kibonde came across huge numbers of spent brass cartridge shells which had been discarded by semi-automatic self-loading military rifles. This told him that the police and/or the army, and possibly the game scouts, too, had been involved in the slaughter.
One big question has been asked over and over again by many people. It was a question that was asked by the EIA too. And that question is: “Why, when he had all the resources of the Tanzanian state at his disposal, did Kikwete not bring the poachers to book?” Yet, nobody has doubted Kibonde’s figure of 57 000 elephants – the number of elephants which disappeared between 2008 and 2012. Nevertheless, not a single poacher was apprehended during those four years, and none were prosecuted!
The SGR poaching event was so big, so widespread and so obvious that it could not be ignored nor denied. Many people, therefore, were puzzled. Why was Kikwete not prepared to answer their questions? And the most regular answer to that question was “he couldn’t answer that question because he was the chief instigator!”
Regrettably, I have no serious information about elephant poaching in Mozambique since the country’s independence from Portugal. All I know is that within the last ten years a great many elephants were killed in the Niassa Province (FACT). The Niassa Province in Mozambique is located north of the Zambezi and South of the Tanzanian border. Numbers killed? In their thousands I am told. I have no idea who was responsible. The only other thing I can tell you is that rumour has it that the Police, the Chief of Police, or the Minister of Police (in Mozambique) “was involved”. And THAT is not at all certain.
Don Heath was a one-time senior wildlife research officer in the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Department. Until his untimely death from natural causes in October 2015, he was working on bullet-research work in the Norma firearms and ammunition factories in Sweden. In the several emails that passed between us in 2015 he gave me some insight into what it was like to wage war against commercial poachers (mainly black rhino poachers) in Zimbabwe.
Of his time in the Zimbabwean National Parks Department (1980s and 1990s), Don had this to say:
“We killed over 900 poachers, lost 18 of our own men and we lost almost all the black rhino.
“The Aussie (Australian) government,” he said, “helped by paying game scouts a $500 bounty for each poacher that they killed or had convicted. In truth,(however) we were killing poor peasants, mostly refugees from the Congo (Zaire) living in camps in northern Zambia or refugees from the civil war in Mozambique, who had all been recruited by corrupt Zimbabwean politicians and/or other elements of the Zimbabwean government poaching syndicates.
“To have pressed the pause button on the rhino slaughter in Zimbabwe,” Heath goes on to say: “We actually needed to shoot only 11 people”.
• Four Indian businessmen in Lusaka (Zambia), who were buying the rhino horn;
• The Zimbabwean Vice-President, Simon Muzenda, who was a linchpin in the local poaching rackets;
• Muzenda’s brother-in-law, T. Mudariki, who was also a member of parliament; Elias Makombe, the Director of Zimbabwe’s National Parks
• Department, who worked closely with both Muzenda and Mudariki. He also worked with members of the South African Military Intelligence (SAMI) who coordinated the poaching in Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park;
• Graham Knott, head of the Zimbabwe National Park’s Investigation Unit, who turned out, also, to be an active (but clandestine) commissioned captain in SAMI was made responsible, by Makombe, for ensuring there were no effective anti-poaching units operating in the south east of the country;
• An American CIA agent in the South East of Zimbabwe, William (Bill) Holms who was working with SAMI. Heath believes Holms might well have been a double agent of some sort, and he claims Holmes was responsible for the deaths of three of ‘our’ men (i.e. the deaths of Zimbabwe anti-poaching personnel);
• Two (unnamed) officers in SAMI who were in charge of the collection of rhino horn and ivory from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola.
This is a real life African operation. Corruption at the highest political level. Corruption at the highest administrative level, even within the wildlife authority that should have been safeguarding the country’s wildlife resources! And there were nefarious collaborations with senior military intelligence officers from other countries who were deeply involved in the poaching rackets, too. These are the kinds of actual difficulties with which the genuine anti-poaching units have to contend in Africa. And, knowing Africa as I do, I suspect that this type of official collusion is rife throughout the continent.
John Coleman, a Rhodesian game ranger turned professional hunting guide, who operated throughout south-central Africa for most of his adult life, had this to say in an open letter to American Dr. Andre Degeorges.
“I have been a game ranger in Rhodesia and then a professional hunter for most of my life, therefore have been directly and indirectly involved in anti-poaching in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.
“I agree with you that, under present conditions and an over-population of humans, the only way to curb poaching to any extent, locally, is to police very effectively and diligently. The problem is that politicians are involved and members of the National Parks and Game Departments are in peril of dismissal or worse, if they persist in anti-poaching operations, particularly if it affects those politicians. Politicians must be held accountable and actively pursued and punished. The only people who can do this are world leaders.
“Now … to deal with dwindling elephant populations due to poaching.
“In many of the areas that were (and still are) heavily poached, the elephants were, to a great degree, heavily over-populated (anyway). A certain amount of culling should have been done, despite the rabid opposition from anti-hunters and greens. These people managed to persuade leading politicians to get all legal hunting banned, thus clearing the way for poachers to take over. The politicians were benefitted in two ways as a result: they got money from the persuasion and they got involved themselves in the lucrative ivory and rhino horn business. How do you counter that in countries where presidents and other politicians are not held accountable for their crimes? In Africa, leaders are democratic dictators and they can and will do as they wish. An example of this is in Zambia. In the 1980s and 1990s over 75 000 elephants and all the remaining black rhino were annihilated by poacher gangs and the army, working directly for the senior politicians. Most remaining elephants disappeared, moving out of the country. A few years after the new government stopped the poaching, by using drastic anti-poaching methods, many of the elephants returned and there is now a fairly viable population again.
The only short term practical way of stopping poaching, and to stop the trade in ivory and rhino horn, is to drastically police and to target all middlemen and traders in these products. No market! No sale! For this to work, all world governments have to be involved actively and go along with this and actively pursue the culprits. Can this be done in time? You tell me!”
Another quote from John Coleman:
“Of course there is rampant poaching of elephant in Africa. The main culprits are high ranking politicians and army generals, right up to presidents themselves.
For example, when I was operating safaris in Zambia during the 1980s “that wonderful leader”, Kenneth Kaunda, was reputed to be directly responsible for organizing the slaughter of at least 75 000 elephants. The only places we saw a few miserable, almost tuskless, elephants were near our hunting camps. The army and game rangers did most of the slaughtering and one could hear AK47s firing in the game reserve almost daily. There were many wounded animals because they (the poachers) just left them if they couldn’t kill them and I shot a few of the poor, suffering beasts. I dared not report it because I would have been accused of plotting against the state and poaching, apart from being a spy.
Also, all the remaining black rhino were annihilated by these same people and by the employees of Save the Rhino (an NGO) who had been issued with Land Cruisers and . 458s (heavy caliber hunting rifles). Guess what they used them for?
“Better not publish this. I may be sued by Kaunda and his buddies in the South African government”.
(I have John’s permission to publish this letter; AND Kaunda is now dead!)
Many private rhino owners in South Africa have taken to darting their animals and sawing off their horns to make them unattractive to poachers. By doing this they save the rhino’s lives. Many other game ranch owners are also gearing up to farm rhinos for the purpose of harvesting their horns every two years. Sawn-off horns re-grow in a remarkably short time. At the moment, there is no legal way to sell rhino horn into the international market place, so excised horns are being stored in secure bank vaults for the day when farmers will (hopefully) be able to sell them.
The process of dehorning is very simple. The rhino is darted and anaesthetized, and whilst the animal is in a comatose state, its horns are sawn off. There is no blood, bone or nerves inside a rhino’s horn so its removal does not cause the animal any pain or discomfort. Nevertheless, the South African government’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has imposed a set of strict legal requirements to regulate the dehorning practice.
The rhino owner is required to apply for a permit to dehorn his rhinos, and he has to submit the following details on the application form
• The farmer’s name and identity number;
• The district and province in which he lives;
• The name of his farm;
• The name of the nearest town;
• The size of the property;
• The number of rhinos on the property;
• The number of rhinos the owner wishes to dehorn;
• The date on which the farmer wishes to carry out the dehorning practice;
• And the name of the government approved depository where the horns will be safely stored.
This might be likened to a GPS map for poachers who are looking to find a rhino to poach.
The permits can take anything from one to four weeks to be granted and during that period many applicants have had their properties attacked by poachers, their rhinos killed and the horns hacked off. One such farmer lost seven white rhinos in one night. Others have lost various other numbers. In many cases, farmers who have been attacked by these brigands, have not suffered even a single previous poaching incident.
In one case, three farmers with adjoining properties were all breeding rhinos. None of them had had any previous visitation by poachers. Two of the farmers applied for permits to dehorn their rhinos. The third did not. Within one week from the date that the DEA received the two applications, both petitioners were hit by poachers and they both lost several animals. The property of the third farmer, the one who did not apply, was not visited by poachers.
The many victims of these poacher attacks are absolutely certain that there is a conduit of information pouring out of the offices of the DEA, telling the poachers exactly where they have to go to find a waiting rhino.
The game ranch owners lament the fact that: “Once the rhinos have been dehorned the risk transfers to the owners and to the managers of the reserves.” It is much easier for the poaching syndicate to get a rhino horn off a human being than off a rhino, and reserve personnel have often been held up at gunpoint by members of the poaching syndicates with demands for their safe or strong room keys.
“In our case, one report states, to guarantee our safety, we employ full-time armed guards until we are able to transfer the horn from the ranch to a secure bank vault in Johannesburg. We are also accompanied by an armed escort on the journey because the Nature Conservation officials know all the relevant details, the numbers and weights of the horns we will be carrying, the dates on which we will be transporting them and the location of their final destination.” The chance of being hi-jacked en route to the bank, therefore, is very good.
Most of my informants apologized for the fact that, under the circumstances, they were unwilling to provide me with proof to confirm their statements. They also told me that: “We would like to remain anonymous because we fear retaliation from the police, from Nature Conservation officials, and/or from officers employed by the Department of Environmental Affairs. We don’t know who to trust and the safety of our families, our staff and our surviving rhinos has to be our priority consideration.”
Numerous cases have been reported of masked gunmen attacking a rhino farmer and his family as they are having supper on the ranch at night, after a hard day of rhino-dehorning out in the field. “Give us the horns that you removed today, or face death,” are the options offered to the victims.
When a rhino horn is worth more than its equivalent weight in gold, these kinds of hit-and-run criminal events are understandable!
I could recite many other such incidents but the above sample should be enough to convince you that officials of the DEA are implicated, one way or another, in the poaching of rhinos on private game ranches in South Africa. So numerous are these reports, in fact, that few rhino farmers now have any doubts that senior officers of the DEA are amongst the culprits.
Apparently, many of these cases have been reported to the police but nothing of any consequence has eventuated. It is alleged that one senior official of the DEA was proven to have been part of a DEA-related rhino poaching syndicate, but he has not been arrested and he continues in his government paid job as though nothing at all has happened.
When rhino farmers voiced their various suspicions directly to the DEA, the officials (apparently) retorted that they believe it was the farmers themselves who had poached their own rhinos.
I understand that the South African government has been informed of all these facts and circumstances, but the DEA officials still insist that it is some mysterious mafia that is behind it all!
I would like you to now look at some strange facts.
In the 1970s and 1980s International Animal Rightist NGOs flocked to Kenya to open offices in Nairobi. Those were the two decades when Ngina Kenyatta was most active in pursuit of her elephant (and rhino) poaching endeavours. It is alleged that, during that period, this giant poaching-architect reduced Kenya’s elephants from 275 000 to 20 000. She is also accused of killing 10 000 black rhinos. It is alleged that in 1973 apparently at the joint instigation of Ngina Kenyatta and Nairobi’s new army of animal rightist NGOs, all licensed elephant hunting was stopped.
Then, in 1977, the hunting of all other game animals was stopped by presidential decree. It was stopped for one reason and for one reason only: because the country’s Professional Hunting Guides (PHGs) were reporting, to the international journalists in Nairobi, the details surrounding the thousands of elephant and rhino carcasses that Ngina’s village-hunters were leaving in the bush behind them.
The banning of all hunting in Kenya destroyed the White Hunters Guild. It removed the PHGs from the wilds of Kenya, from where Ngina’s hunters were operating, so they could no longer report her crimes to the journalists. But it didn’t stop her village hunters from poaching.
For a long time, however, Ngina was lambasted by the international press. Stories about her poaching exploits appeared in a great many local and First-World newspapers. They were also discussed in the Kenyan parliament. Eventually, the Kenyatta family, tired of all the ignominy, issued a five page report denying Ngina’s role in any kind of poaching.
It is not possible that, in this kind of attritious climate, the NGOs in Nairobi did not know what was going on. They were wise enough, however, to understand that if they, too, denounced Ngina, the First Lady of the Land, they would be kicked out of Kenya. So, they remained mum. And when CITES 1989 came along the NGOs lamented the massive declines in Kenya’s elephant herds which they blamed on a fabricated and non-existent Chinese Poaching Mafia.
And so the myths began.
Re: ‘SPIKES’ in elephant poaching
On Page 2 of this dissertation, I reported that Will Travers, British animal rights activist and President of the Born Free Foundation, in an Aljazeera television broadcast, had argued against the re-opening the ivory trade. He said that every time CITES offered one of its sovereign state members a once-off-legal-sale of its elephant tusk-stock-pile, there followed a “spike” in elephant poaching. I called his statement “bunkum”.
Since making that remark I have explained, in this dissertation, the history of elephant and rhino poaching in southern-and-eastern Africa, since 1970. The principle instigators in every country – Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia – have been identified as their political élites. And the numbers of elephants killed can be counted in their tens of thousands. The numbers, indeed, are mind-boggling.
None of this is ever mentioned by the leaderships of those animal rightist NGOs who have chosen to enter the fray – the likes of Will Travers! Instead, since 1989, at some time or another, they have all blamed a mythical Chinese Mafia. Nevertheless, the political nature of these state-run poaching syndicates has been structured like a typical mafia organization and their primary purpose, like all true mafia organisations, is to make money. But none of them were Chinese. They were all home-grown and they were orchestrated by the significant power of African politics – a formidable tool in the hands of organized criminals!
I must ask Mr Travers, therefore, just HOW he thinks a once-off-sale of elephant tusks can influence the kind of scenario I have just revealed. The politicians I have named were all despots who ruled their countries with fists of iron. And they took what they wanted out of their national heritages as though it was their divine right to do so. They did not need the incentive of a once-off-ivory sale to set them off on a poaching spree.
Mr Travers quoted a once-off ivory sale that was permitted by CITES in 2008 and he suggests that the surge in elephant poaching which followed that event, was of unacceptable proportions. At the same time, he gave us no proof and no figures to qualify that remark.
When we look around us, seeking the kind of elephant poaching event that would have shocked Mr Travers after 2008, we have two options to consider. Between 2008 and 2012 we have the Tanzanian government-orchestrated Selous Game Reserve poaching event which killed a probable 57 000 elephants inside a period of four years. And, at about that same time, there was another government controlled elephant poaching event in the Niassa province of Mozambique for which I have no figures (but it did happen!).
I do not for one moment, however, believe that either the Selous or the Niassa poaching events were in any way influenced by a piddling once-off-ivory-sale concession that had reluctantly seeped out of CITES. Why would a senior political figure, who believed it was his divine right to hunt elephants in his own country at any time, concern himself with a tiny concession at CITES? If a president wants to poach an elephant or a thousand elephants in his own country, he will poach them according to his own time-table. He won’t wait for an opportune moment, determined by somebody else to throw the dice!
I ask you this: Would a once-off sale of ivory, permitted by CITES, have influenced Ngina Kenyatta in any way and at any time, during her twenty year rampage killing elephants in Kenya? Would it have affected Jikaya Kikwete (or any other politician) in Tanzania, or Simon Muzenda the Vice-President of Zimbabwe, or Kenneth Kaunda, the President of Zambia? These were all the God-Fathers of the various government mafias who were responsible for the poaching of elephants and rhinos in South-Eastern Africa.
Were there any other warlords poaching elephants in South-Eastern Africa at this time? I am sure there were, here and there! But, compared to the real God-Fathers-of-the-Chase (the political élites), these lesser criminals made little impression on the numbers of elephants in their countries? So, I contend that the impacts made by these small fry can be largely ignored. But they are not being ignored. These people are the poachers who might be influenced by a CITES once-off ivory sale. And when we are making important elephant management decisions at CITES, we need to remove from our equations all the effects of these people. They are petty criminals by comparison to the presidents who were involved. And the people who are insisting on nit-picking in this way are the Will Travers’ of this world.
We cannot go on like this. We need to reach an international agreement with World leaders who are the only people who can insist that CITES should allow Africa to manage its elephants on a sustainable basis and that the elephant range states should be given the right to manage their own elephant populations as they see fit. Our elephants need to be used sustainably for the benefit of Africa’s people.
I intend to make a separate report on the criminality of the international animal rights brigade. It is high time such an attack on these nefarious people, is made.
NOW, however, we at least know who Africa’s elephant poachers are.
By Ron Thomson. CEO – The True Green Alliance (TGA) – South Africa
2 thoughts on “The Whistle-Blower – Who are the Poachers and where are they now?”
A very well written piece based on long years of close study, observation and first hand experiences.
I am a little surprised as to your very light “wave” towards the SA situation – a lot of people are well aware that the story is no different to all the countries and actors you do mention. I guess nobody prepared to be on record and/or the ANC just to scary…
The sad thing is the Travers-types of this world do not want to hear you and will never read you no matter how short you make – you are endangering their luxury hotel stays and expensive 4×4’s and off-the-record animal killing jaunts.
Yes, I know you can’t stop… not yet…
May the Force be with you
Thank you for your kind words Willem. I note your comment about my very light ‘wave’ towards the South African poaching syndicates.
I have said what I “CAN” say about the South African situation. Remember, what I say in public I have to be able to stand-by in a court of law – and I don’t know enough about the inner workings of the South African poaching fraternity to be any more adamant than I already have been. What I have stated comes from a number of “confidential” sources who want to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. I cannot, therefore, break that confidentiality.
The animal rightists DO know what I have published – some of which is very provocative and shows the animal rights movement up in a very bad light (justifiably so). And I get enough death threats to KNOW that they have taken heed of my words. But my dissertation on “poaching” is not meant ONLY for the ears and eyes of the animal rightists. It is actually meant for the ears and eyes of the general public who are now better informed than they were before reading it. And THAT is one of the reasons for my existence – “to create a better informed public”!
An aside: I suggested a year or two ago that the people comprising the animal rights brigade are the “paedophiles” of the wildlife industry – meaning that our appreciation of their existence is the same as society’s consideration of those criminals who abuse our children. And you can’t get much more of a ‘rougher accolade’ than that. And, at a CITES meeting in Switzerland, recently, Emmanuel Koro was taken to task by non-other-than Will Travers himself, for likening him to a “paedophile”. And he was deeply hurt to think that “some people” actually thought of him in that light. And THAT was the exact reason why I described them as I did!