Archive for University of Washington

Live from the Congo: Poachers, Smoked Monkey Head, and Trapped Parrots, But No Elephants in Sight

Posted in Live From the Congo: Elephant Ivory Project, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2011 by Dori G

There was a shootout.  Andy and I weren’t there, but we learned through satellite text messages that Colonel Gui and his soldiers from the Congolese army ran into the bandits somewhere between Kisangani and Obenge—likely the brothers of Colonel Toms, a convicted war criminal and poacher. A gunfight ensued. One poacher was injured and two others were apprehended. Colonel Gui, with his prisoners in tow, is still coming to Obenge to route out poachers in the region.  We should see them tomorrow.

I got the news during a four-day sampling hike through TL2 with Andy and the scientist John Hart [http://www.bonoboincongo.com]. But let me back up. After Kisangani, which is where I last blogged, we flew to Kindu, a town on the border of the 25,000 square mile jungle known as TL2. It’s the region Elephant Ivory Project-lead Samuel Wasser [http://depts.washington.edu/conserv/Director.html] wants elephant dung samples from most (read the previous posts to understand why). From Kindu, the three of us spent two days on the back of motorbikes, riding dirt paths notched into the jungle and savannah. These paths are arteries out of the bush. We saw locals pushing bicycles loaded with everything from pineapples to bush meat in the form of monkeys and okapi, a striped cousin of the giraffe. At the Lomami River, we loaded into motorized pirogues for a supposed two-day trip north to Obenge, the Hart’s research camp in the northern part of the proposed Lomami National Park. John stopped at every riverside village—about a dozen–to explain what the national park meant for the locals.

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Live From The Congo: Despite Poacher’s Cross-Burning Death Threats, Elephant Ivory Project Team Courageously Presses On

Posted in Live From the Congo: Elephant Ivory Project with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2011 by kyledickman

‘Moses’, a suspected poacher in the Congo jungle, is burning crosses as death threats to National Park supporters, but it’s not enough to derail the Elephant Ivory Project team on to their mission to stop elephant poaching.

We just arrived this morning and I already want to leave Kisangani, a city of 700,000 in the center of Congo’s jungle. A cholera outbreak started in the city last week and left 27 dead—200 more cases have been reported. Andy and I are with Terese and John Hart, conservationists who have been working in the DRC for 30 years (check out their project Bonobos in Congo). They’ve agreed to help us plan our mission. But the question of where to start sampling elephant dung isn’t simple. The region Dr. Wasser wants us to sample most, the proposed Lomami National Park in the 25,000 square mile jungle known as TL2, has become even more dangerous.

Officials burning a poacher's camp near Obenge

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Live From the Congo: Will A ‘Notoriously Violent’ Poacher and Rapist Hamper Elephant Ivory Project’s Efforts to Stop Poaching?

Posted in Africa: Elephants, Live From the Congo: Elephant Ivory Project with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2011 by kyledickman


It’s been a fortunate few days. We arrived in Kinshasa on Monday, exhausted from 36 hours of transit, and found the Congo just as hot as we left it two years ago. On Tuesday morning, we met with Dr. Teresa Hart, a 30-year veteran of conservation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Teresa first came to the country as a Peace Corp volunteer in 1974. She’s now in her tenth year studying bonobos, an ape found only in the DRC, in a 25,000-square mile block of forest known as TL2. The region is an elephant sanctuary on paper, but animals are disappearing there faster than ever.

“Research here leads to advocacy because it’s all being destroyed,” says Hart.

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Live From the Congo: Elephant Ivory Project’s Journey to Stop Elephant Poaching Begins

Posted in Africa: Elephants, Live From the Congo: Elephant Ivory Project with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2011 by kyledickman

Equipment needed for expedition

Today, I’m packing. After two years in the works, we’re kicking off the Elephant Ivory Project in earnest on Sunday morning, when Andy Maser and I fly to Kinshasa–the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)–with a case of collection vials and the goal of saving a species.  Here’s the back story: Continue reading

Asia’s police forces cracking down on Ivory, despite booming demand in Asia

Posted in Africa: Elephants, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2010 by kendickjerkins

As the demand for ivory continues to rise in Asia, more and more African elephants are feeling the repercussions.  A single large elephant tusk can now go for as much as $17,000 on the black market and with that kind of money involved there is no shortage of people willing to sell them illicitly.  Sierra Leone & Burundi no longer have any elephants inside their borders, and Senegal now has less than ten.  Samuel K. Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington has estimated the value of the illegal ivory trade at $264 million dollars over the past decade and warns that: “If we don’t get the illegal trade under control soon, elephants could be wiped out over much of Africa.”

Two tons of ivory seized in Bangkok that was being transported from Africa.

The primary destinations for illegal ivory have traditionally been Thailand, Japan and China, which have thriving black markets and some of the world’s best ivory carvers. However police forces throughout these nations have begun cracking down on the lucrative trade. Thailand had three seizures last year and already had its biggest yet in February, when 2 tons of African tusks worth $3.6 million were found in containers bound for Laos. In the Chinese city of Putian, where ivory demand is high a dealer by the name of Chen shows how difficult it is to control the ivory trade. Chinese police started cracking down on ivory theft in February. Since the raids, Chen said he has stopped selling the “xiang ya,” the Chinese word for ivory, which translates to “elephant tooth.” But not for long. “I don’t dare sell anything now because they’re cracking down,” he said, over the din of electric saws being used to carve wooden dragon statues. “Come back in early June and I should be able to sell.”

While governments insist their cracking down on the trade, officials admit corruption is rife within their ranks, which remains a huge challenge in the war on ivory. Lt. Col. Adtapon Sudsai, who investigates the illegal trade in Thailand, said it is not unusual to find ivory carvings in Buddhist temples or the homes of politicians or high-ranking police and military officers as a sign of power.

A pile of illegally obtained elephant tusks.

To read the full article click here

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