Tag Archives: Africa

Trump to reverse ban on importing elephants killed as trophies

The Trump administration said it will allow the importation of body parts from African elephants shot for sport, contending that encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill them will aid the vulnerable species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a written notice issued Thursday that permitting elephants from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be brought back as trophies will raise money for conservation programs. A licensed two-week African elephant hunt can cost more than $50,000 per person, not including airfare, according to advertised rates.

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The Mafia Is Teaming Up With Nigeria’s ‘Viking’ Gangsters To Run Sex Rings In Sicily

Mafia members in Sicily are teaming up with a Nigerian gang that uses machetes on its enemies and only accepts degree-qualified members, to run sex rings on the Italian island.

Police sources told The Times that members of the Vikings—a gang that sprung out of Nigerian universities in the 1980s and demands that members have no criminal record—have collaborated with the local Cosa Nostra, or the Sicilian Mafia in Ballaro, a town in Sicily, and were threatening to expand into the capital Palermo.

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Somali pirates hijack first commercial ship since 2012

  • Hijack is first such incident since 2012
  • Eight crew believed on Sri Lankan tanks Aris 13 -expert

  • Pirates launched 237 attacks off Somalia in 2011-officials

NAIROBI, March 14 Pirates have hijacked an oil tanker with eight Sri Lankan crew onboard, a Somali official said on Tuesday, the first time they have successfully taken a commercial ship since 2012.

The Aris 13 sent a distress call on Monday, turned off its tracking system and altered course for the Somali port town of Alula, said John Steed of the aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy.

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Ancient ‘lost continent’ fragment discovered in the Indian Ocean

A piece of crust that broke off from the supercontinent Gondwana approximately 200 million years ago has been found underneath the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, according to new research published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

The fragment appears to have broken off from the island of Madagascar when Africa, India, Australia, and Antarctic spilt apart and formed the Indian Ocean, lead author Lewis Ashwal, a professor at Wits University in South Africa and his colleagues reported in their study.

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National Geographic put a GPS tracker inside a fake ivory tusk — here’s where it went

In the September 2015 issue of National Geographic, journalist Bryan Christy’s story, “Tracking Ivory,” began with a brilliant idea: Design artificial elephant tusks, complete with GPS devices, and monitor where they travel.

With help from experts, the tusks became a reality and journeyed across Africa.

While Central Africa has lost 64% of its elephant population in just a decade from poaching, effectively tracking and eliminating the illicit ivory trade will do substantially more than just protect wildlife. The illegal profits from this trade help support some of the most violent militias, terrorist organizations, and paramilitary groups throughout eastern Africa.

The map below shows the tusks’ path:


Courtesy of National Geographic

592 miles, 53 days

To start, Christy asked taxidermist George Dante and Quintin Kermeen, founder and president of Telemetry Solutions, to lend their expertise to the project.

Real ivory is tough to impersonate. First of all, it won’t melt when you hold a flame to it. Genuine ivory also has “Schreger lines” — small imperfections on the cut-end of the tusk, much like rings on a tree trunk, that show the elephant’s age.

Despite these challenges, Dante created such a believable version that Christy and his editor were detained for a night at an airport in Tanzania. Officials thought the tusks were real even though Christy and his editor had notes from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Geographic certifying the tusks were artificial.

After navigating a few other hiccups, Christy dropped the tusks directly into the ivory supply chain through the coastal city of Mboki in the Central African Republic.

In the first 16 days, the tusks moved 242 miles, averaging about 16 miles a day, to cross the border into Sudan.

On day 19, the tusks entered Kafia Kingi, a disputed territory in Sudan likely controlled by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a murderous, fringe Christian organization led by Joseph Kony. Since the 1980s, the LRA has sought the overthrow of the Ugandan government and the imposition of Kony’s interpretation of a Christian theocracy.

The tusks stay in Kafia Kingi for three weeks.

On days 42 through 52, they started traveling faster, likely in vehicles instead of on foot.

After traveling 592 miles, on day 53 temperature sensors hinted the tusks were inside a building or buried underground, their last known location when the story published.


Photo by J. Michael Fay, Wildlife Conservation Society/National GeographicIn May 2013, poachers with the insurgent group Seleka massacred 26 elephants at Dzanga Bai, a mineral-rich watering hole in the Central African Republic.

Ivory as a savings account

During its decades of existence, the LRA has terrorized areas in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — formerly Zaire — with the mass rape of women and girls, the enslavement of young boys as child soldiers, and brutal acts of mutilation that have included cutting off lips and women’s breasts.


Courtesy of National Geographic.National Geographic’s September 2015 issue, on newsstands now.

Michael Onen, a defector from Kony’s army presence in Garamba National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site famous for its elephants, told Christy that Kony uses the ivory as a savings account.

By collecting it, the LRA can stockpile potential wealth for years, which it can trade later for ammunition and supplies to continue fighting.

With Kony’s presence in Garamba, evidence of his men slaughtering elephants has become apparent around the park. Christy heard the clicking of guns while navigating the grasses, and carcasses lay near undetonated hand grenades. Kidnap victims even told stories of being fed elephant meat.

When Christy asked a group of children in a village 30 miles outside of Garamba how many of them had visited the park, not one raised a hand.

“How many of you have been kidnapped by the LRA?” received the opposite response.

Despite a team of armed men patrolling Garamba’s front lines against Kony’s men and other terrorist groups, Garamba has lost thousands of elephants since Kony moved in 2006, when 4,000 elephants prospered.

Zakouma National Park in Chad has fared even worse: 90% of its population has been lost since 2002, most from 2005 to 2008 at the hands of poachers, according to Christy.

Cross-border ivory trade

The LRA isn’t the only armed group to make use of the ivory trade for funding. In exchange for ivory, Christy notes that the LRA received heavy weapons from contingents of the Sudan Armed Forces in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur.

The Sudanese-backed Janjaweed militia, which has been responsible for many of the atrocities in Darfur, are also believed to be involved in the cross-border ivory trade, including high-profile poaching activities in Cameroon.

Over the border in the Central African Republic, the Sudanese-backed Seleka rebels have also capitalized on the ivory trade. Christy notes that, according to another LRA defector, the Seleka sold a stockpile of approximately 300 elephant tusks. The wealth from this trade allowed the group to have enough weapons to overthrow CAR’s President François Bozizé in 2013.

Since the largely Muslim Seleka overthrew the CAR government, the country has been racked by a spiral of counter-revolts and bitter Christian revenge attacks against the country’s Muslim minority that have bordered on ethnic cleansing.

Rangers practice their riding skills at Zakouma National Park, in Chad. The park has four mounted ranger teams because horses are the only way to effectively patrol during the wet season, when the elephants head to drier land outside the park.

Photo by Brent Stirton/National GeographicRangers practice their riding skills at Zakouma National Park, in Chad. The park has four mounted ranger teams because horses are the only way to effectively patrol during the wet season, when the elephants head to drier land outside the park.

Libyan Militants Just Seized A Central Bank Branch With As Much As $100 Billion Inside


Fighters loyal to a renegade general in Libya just seized a Central Bank facility in the coastal city of Benghazi that houses a reported $100 billion in cash and gold, according to The New York Times.

Libya’s ongoing civil war has split the country between an Islamist-supported central government based in Tripoli and a rival nationalist administration held together by the renegade general Khalifa Hifter and based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

But the country had a couple of remaining bright spots, including Africa’s largest proven oil reserves, an oil industry positioned just across the Mediterranean Sea from western Europe, and a reported $113 billion in foreign currency, according to Al Hayat.

This was down from the $321 billion in reserves from before the country’s 2011 uprising but was still enough to ensure that salaries would be paid and that the country’s oil infrastructure would continue to function.

Those reserves are diminishing quickly. Earlier this month, an oil facility in Es Sider burned for several days after being struck by an errant rocket, wiping out oil stocks equivalent to more than 36 hours’ worth of nationwide production. And Thursday, Hifter’s fighters seized the Libyan central bank’s Benghazi branch and its reported $100 billion.

Libya FireStringer ./REUTERSThe fire in Es Sider in January. This hasn’t been a great month for Libya.

As David Kirkpatrick of The Times reported, the central bank was one of Libya’s last functioning public institutions. Its governor, Sadik el-Kabir, had traveled abroad to reassure foreign leaders of the integrity of the Libyan state during the ongoing crisis while the bank has succeeded in paying out salaries and keeping the country’s oil infrastructure functional. It has also kept its headquarters in Tripoli, despite the Benghazi branch’s presence in the part of the country controlled by Hifter’s self-declared government.

Even so, Kirkpatrick says, the Benghazi office had been considered to be outside of politics, and the various combatants in the city — which include a constellation of Islamist militias — had largely left the facility alone.

But Thursday, Hifter’s militia seized the building from the Tripoli-government-allied Islamists guarding it. According to the Times report, Hifter’s men have “posted video images online that appeared intended to show that they had not broken into the vaults, at least not yet.”

Hifter wants to let the government in Tripoli know that he could control most of the country’s remaining cash and gold reserves if he wanted to.

But in the process, he has shown that there is a highly vulnerable $100 billion payoff sitting in the middle of Benghazi’s stateless vacuum.

Row as Barclays promotes tax havens as ‘gateway for investment’ in Africa

British bank criticised after brochure hails Mauritius as offshore financial centre of choice for India and sub-Saharan regionMDG : Fishing boats in Mahebourg, Mauritius

Barclays’ promotion of offshore tax havens such as Mauritius, above, undermines its aim to be a force for good, says ActionAid. Photograph: F. Dubessay for the Guardian

Barclays has come under fire for promoting the use of offshore tax havens as a route for companies investing in Africa.

In a report published on Wednesday, the NGO ActionAid says Barclays’ marketing of offshore tax jurisdictions undermines the bank’s stated ambition to be a “force for good” as these places can be used by companies to reduce the tax paid in the African countries where they work. The report does not directly accuse Barclays, or the companies it works with, of tax avoidance, or suggest any illegal activity. “If people want to put their money offshore, they’ll find a way to do it, but Barclays should stop promoting this. It is inappropriate for a bank looking to be a force for good, and aiming to expand its operations in Africa, to do this,” said Toby Quantrill, tax justice adviser at ActionAid.

He said Barclays should do more to help companies invest directly in African countries. “If you’re going to be a big player in Africa, you should promote and support the development of infrastructure for direct investment in these countries.”

Estimates suggest African countries lose billions of dollars in unpaid taxes each year – and far more than they receive in foreign aid. Tax has risen up theglobal development agenda in light of such figures, with NGOs and high-level officials condemning tax avoidance as putting at risk poor countries’ prospects for development and self-sufficiency.

Barclays said it does not encourage businesses to set up in any particular jurisdiction.

Earlier this year, Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general, said it was “unconscionable” for companies to use unethical tax avoidance to maximise their profits “while millions of Africans go without adequate nutrition, health and education”.

ActionAid estimates suggest that almost one in every $2 of reported corporate investment in developing countries is routed from or via a tax haven, with Mauritius the largest player.

In a corporate brochure published on Barclays’ website, Mauritius is promoted as “the offshore financial centre of choice for India and the sub-Saharan region” and “the experienced and established gateway for investment into Africa and Asia”.

Mauritius is known for its secrecy, negligible corporate tax rates, and for being a favoured conduit for wealthy individuals and multinationals wishing to avoid tax on African and Asian profits.