Rhino poaching surges in Asia, Africa

Rhino poaching worldwide is on the rise, according to a new report by TRAFFIC and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The trade is being driven by Asian demand for horns and is made worse by increasingly sophisticated poachers, who now are using veterinary drugs, poison, cross bows and high caliber weapons to kill rhinos, the report states.

Since 2006 the majority (95 percent) of the poaching in Africa has occurred in Zimbabwe and South Africa, according to new data.

“These two nations collectively form the epicentre of an unrelenting poaching crisis in southern Africa,” said Tom Milliken of TRAFFIC.

The report, which was submitted to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) ahead of its 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15) in March, documents a decline in law enforcement effectiveness and an increase in poaching intensity in Africa. The situation is most serious in Zimbabwe where rhino numbers are now declining and the conviction rate for rhino crimes in Zimbabwe is only three percent. Despite the introduction of a number of new measures, poaching and illicit horn trade in South Africa has also increased.

“Concerted action at the highest level is needed to stop this global crisis of rampant rhino poaching,” said Amanda Nickson, Director of the Species Programme at WWF International. “We call on the countries of concern to come to COP 15 in March with specific actions they have undertaken to show their commitment to stopping this poaching and protecting rhinos in the wild.”

The report also raises concerns regarding the low and declining numbers as well as the uncertain status of some of the Sumatran and Javan rhino populations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“Sumatran and Javan rhino range countries need to increase efforts to better assess the current status of many of their rhino populations – to enhance field law enforcement efforts – prevent further encroachment and land transformation in rhino areas – and improve biological management of remaining rhinos to ensure the few remaining Sumatran and Javan Rhino numbers increase,” said Dr. Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group

Most rhino horns leaving southern Africa are destined for medicinal markets in southeast and east Asia, especially Vietnam, and also China. The report highlights Vietnam as a country of particular concern – noting that Vietnamese nationals operating in South Africa have recently been identified in rhino crime investigations. In addition, concern has been expressed about the status of Vietnam’s single Javan rhino population.

However, the report does note that in some areas populations of rhinos are increasing.

“Where there is political will, dedicated conservation programs and good law enforcement, rhino numbers have increased in both Africa and Asia,” said Dr Richard Emslie, Scientific Officer of IUCN’s African Rhino Specialist Group.

IUCN’s Rhino Specialist Groups and TRAFFIC were mandated to produce the report by CITES. The data collection and report writing for the report was partially funded by WWF and partners.

source: WWF


Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta are topping a WWF ranking of the climate vulnerability of 11 major cities in Asia

As Heads of States gather in Singapore for the APEC summit, WWF says that developed and developing countries must cooperate to prepare these cities for a brutal climate future, highlighting that their vulnerability is yet another compelling reason for a fair, ambitious and binding deal at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December.

According to Mega-Stress For Mega-Cities, many of the cities analyzed are extremely exposed to threats such as storms and flooding, while huge numbers of people and assets at stake result in worrying levels of socio-economic sensitivity. At the same time, the cities often lack capacity to protect themselves from devastating impacts.

“Climate change is already shattering cities across developing Asia and will be even more brutal in the future”, said Kim Carstensen, Leader of the WWF Global Climate Initiative. “These cities are vulnerable and need urgent help to adapt, in order to protect the lives of millions of citizens, a massive amount of assets, and their large contributions to the national GDP.”

“The APEC summit this week in Singapore provides an opportunity to exploit the true win-win potential offered by low carbon growth strategies for countries in the Asia Pacific region, with benefits for both the economy and the climate.”

The WWF report covers 11 urban centers across Asia, all located in coastal areas or river deltas. Following Dhaka (9 out of 10 possible vulnerability points), other cities at high risk are Manila and Jakarta (8 each), Calcutta and Phnom Penh (7 each), Ho Chi Minh City and Shanghai (6 each), Bangkok (5), and Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore (4 each).

“Asia is urbanizing rapidly, and we can be certain that urban areas will be crucial battlegrounds in the fight against climate change”, said Carstensen.

“Cities are responsible for most of the world’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, but they are also pioneers when it comes to developing innovative solutions. We can’t afford to surrender them to climate change. Instead, we must empower them to become change agents and protect both rural and urban areas from devastating impacts.”

The report also includes rankings for sub-categories such as environmental exposure, socio-economic sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Poorer cities often lack sufficient adaptive capacity and generally rank higher in terms of their overall vulnerability.

“Leaders in hotspots of danger like Dhaka, Manila or Jakarta need urgent support from their counterparts in the industrialized world. Effective near-term and long-term adaptation will depend on financial support, technology cooperation, and capacity building”, said Carstensen.

According to WWF, this week’s APEC summit in Singapore provides leaders from developed and developing countries around the Pacific with a great opportunity to boost cooperation on adaptation to climate impacts as well as low carbon economic growth.

“Now we are only a couple of weeks away from the Copenhagen Climate Summit, but so far leaders have failed to clear the way for success next month in Denmark”, said Carstensen.

“APEC is the last chance before Copenhagen for leaders from a number of key countries to show that they really want to protect the planet from climate change.”


Asia wants climate deal

More than half the people in Asia believe sealing a new climate deal later this year depends on the leadership of U.S. President Barack Obama, according to a survey released on Thursday by conservation group WWF.

The survey, based on more than 6,000 respondents in August, found that 53 percent believed an agreement on a broader U.N. climate pact at a December meeting in Copenhagen hinged on Obama.

Fifteen percent said leadership by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was critical and 14 percent saw Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a key figure.

“People in developing Asia think a few countries can make all the difference,” said Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.

“If the U.S., China and India live up to the huge leadership potential Asians see in them, Copenhagen can deliver a global deal that protects the world from runaway climate change,” he said in a statement. WWF and Greenpeace Southeast Asia were among the groups that commissioned the survey by Synovate.

The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, whose first phase ends in 2012, and never signed up to binding emissions curbs agreed to by 37 other industrialised nations.

Under Obama, Washington has set a target to reduce emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and the Senate is working on emissions trading laws.