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The wholesale price of raw ivory in China has fallen by almost two-thirds in the past three years, a new report unveiled today shows, noting that the Chinese government has during that time made increasingly strong commitment to close the domestic ivory trade.

China will on 31 March 2017 shut down all ivory factories in the country. All retail outlets will be closed by the end of this year.

According to the report by researchers Esmond Bradley Martin and Lucy Vigne for the conservation organisation, Save the Elephants, the average price of tusks was $2,100 per kg in early 2014, but by late 2015 it had fallen to $1,100 per kilo. The price decline continued, plummeting to $730 per kg in February 2017, according to the report entitled Decline in the Legal Ivory Trade in Anticipation of a Ban.

“Findings from 2015 and 2016 in China have shown that the legal ivory trade especially has been severely diminished,” said Ms Vigne. The 130 licensed outlets in China have been gradually reducing the quantity of ivory items on display for sale, and recently have been cutting prices to improve sales, according to the report.

The study gives several driving factors behind the decline in the wholesale prices for raw ivory in China. An economic slowdown has resulted in fewer people able to afford luxury goods, and a crackdown on corrupt is dissuading business people from buying expensive items as favours for government officials.

The Chinese government has also made strong commitments to close down the country’s legal ivory trade, and public awareness campaigns have exposed many potential buyers to the impact that buying ivory has on Africa’s elephants.

 

The East African Wild Life Society is raising concern that the impacts of the proposed Standard Gauge Railway to Naivasha is extending beyond the Nairobi National Park to other critical ecological systems. This is after a routine fact finding mission of 20th March 2017 by EAWLS established the presence of beacons and demarcations in Oloolua Forest placed by a group of Chinese in the company of armed men.

The society has received confirmation that the SGR will pass through the forest, a clear deviation from the SGR EIA report which indicated that the line would avoid the forest ecosystem (Ngong Hill Nature Reserve). This shocking development is a result of the unwillingness by Kenya Railways to make public the exact route co-ordinates of the railway (against the Access to Information Act, 2016) if not non-compliance with the EIA report and compromises effective integration of environmental aspects into the development in a proactive way. Attempts by EAWLS to get exact area of the excision out of the 661 acres of the Oloolua forest has not been successful. EAWLS will continue to analyse the impacts of SGR on critical natural ecosystems beyond NNP and calls on all conservation organisations, stakeholders and the public to be on the lookout and voice out any concerns.

 

EAWLS also calls upon the Kenya Railways to adhere to the terms and conditions of the EIA licence and make public the specific route co-ordinates of the Phase 2A of the SGR to pave way for effective and proactive engagement with stakeholders/public to ensure optimal mitigation of the adverse effects of the development on the natural systems. EAWLS also call upon the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and Kenya Railways to constitute a multi-stakeholder group to monitor the construction of the SGR and ensure that all mitigation measures as prescribed in the EIA report are adhered to.

 

Oloolua Forest is one of the green spaces and remaining forests in Nairobi of great ecological importance. It is a fragmented tropical dry forest in an urban setting that provides increasingly important link to nature conservation mainly to Nairobi National park, Ngong Hills and other adjacent wildlife areas.

 

It is very ironical that such unfortunate revelations comes at a time when Kenya joins the rest of the World in celebrating the International Day of Forests, marked on 21st March every year. Indeed Kenya’s commitment to forest conservation must be demonstrated by ensuring that all critical forest ecosystems are protected and that the rule of law is strictly followed in cases where development interact with critical ecosystems like Oloolua forest.

 

Julius Kamau

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

By Charlotte Beauvoisin

Hidden in the dense rainforests that stretch across Uganda’s southwestern border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo dwells a gentle giant that has intrigued and amazed the world for hundreds of years.

Uganda is home to half of the estimated 880 mountain gorillas alive today, but the great apes are critically endangered. Their home in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and biodiversity hotspot, is a fragile habitat under threat.

People living around Bwindi are among the poorest and most marginalized. They have inadequate access to basic social services, including healthcare and a means to provide for their families. This forces them to depend on the forest for basic needs such as food and fuel wood. But every time people enter the forest, they interfere with the gorillas’ habitat and could transmit human diseases to the gorillas. But lacking viable alternative livelihoods, people continue to poach and cause deforestation in the park.

Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), a Ugandan non-profit organization featured in the January-March 2017 edition of Swara is supporting biodiversity conservation by enabling humans, wildlife and livestock to coexist while improving the health and livelihoods of people in and around protected areas. It is CTPH’s mission to save the endangered mountain gorilla by improving rural public health and community attitudes towards conservation.

Working with communities, CTPH discovered that there is a growing local economy around coffee farming. Coffee is of vital importance to Uganda’s economy. The commodity accounts for 22 per cent of the country’s export earnings. While there is great potential to benefit from the coffee industry, CTPH found that the impoverished communities that grow coffee on the slopes of Bwindi Forest lacked the resources and the reliable coffee market required to increase their income, improve their way of life and hence reduce encroachment on the gorillas’ habitat.

CTPH has partnered with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Switzerland) to create Gorilla Conservation Coffee, a social enterprise that is saving gorillas ‘one coffee sip at a time.’ Some 75 small-holder coffee farmers in Bwindi have come together to form the Bwindi Coffee Growers Cooperative. They are being taught sustainable farming practices and good post-harvest coffee handling techniques, in addition to being paid a premium for their coffee and having a steady market for their product. Coffee farmers in the cooperative are already reaping the benefits. Hundreds more farmer are expected to join the cooperative in the near future.

 

The Gorilla Conservation Coffee will not stop there: With every purchase of a bag of coffee, consumers help ensure the survival of the critically endangered mountain gorilla. As a social enterprise of CTPH, sales from Gorilla Conservation Coffee provide sustainable financing for CTPH programmes.

 

The primary goal of Gorilla Conservation Coffee was the protection of mountain gorillas and their habitat through inclusive growth and support for the local the economy around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Gorilla Conservation Coffee connects the growing economic prosperity of the farmers with gorilla conservation. With the right support, farmers are less likely to damage the gorillas’ habitat.

 

There is no one solution to gorilla conservation, but Gorilla Conservation Coffee is a community-driven solution that supports local coffee farmers and their families to reach their full potential. Gorillas are unlikely to survive without the support of the local communities with whom they share a fragile habitat.

Gorilla Conservation Coffee is on sale at tourist lodges across Uganda, at Entebbe Airport’s 

Duty free shop and the website www.gorillaconservationcoffee.org

For more on Conservation Through Public Health visit www.ctph.org

By Paul Udoto

Two iconic rhinos in Kenya have been ‘greened’ as part of global celebrations to mark St Patrick’s Day. The statues of Kyela and Lankeu, which are names of actual rhinos in Nairobi National Park, were symbolically lit green to draw attention to conservation efforts.

The colourful occasion dubbed #GreenRhinos was presided over by Ireland ambassador to Kenya, Dr. Vincent O’Neill who said the “greening” of rhinos this year was to celebrate Ireland’s presence and influence abroad.

The occasion was also to recognize the fact that rhinos are a “fantastic icon of Kenyan life and heritage” endangered through poaching and that Kenya was responding effectively to the problem.

“In highlighting this, we want to commend Kenya for the huge progress it has made in addressing this global problem,” said Dr. O’Neill “Because of these efforts, the number of rhinos killed by poachers in Kenya has greatly reduced over the years.”

Kenya Wildlife Society (KWS) Director General, Kitili Mbathi, expressed Kenya’s concern over new moves to legalize trade in domestic markets for rhino horn in South Africa, especially proposed partial lifting of the ban in the export of rhino horn by allowing foreigners to export two rhino horns for “personal purposes.”

“We shudder to think of the potential increase in poaching we could be faced with if the South African proposals are approved,” said Mr. Mbathi, adding that the move would “create the sort of increased demand we saw when trade in ivory was temporarily relaxed for a few southern African countries in previous years.”

St. Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s National Day and is celebrated on the 17th of March every year. To mark this day, and recognizing that Green is the national colour of Ireland, Tourism Ireland’s 8th Annual Global Greening initiative will see some of the world’s most famous attractions and sites going Green.

“Through the #GreenRhinos initiative, we are showing our support for the hugely important efforts being made in Kenya to stop the illegal slaughter of these wonderful animals so they can thrive for many generations to come,” said Dr O’Neill.

The Kenyan #GreenRhinos joined Colosseum in Rome, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, equator sign and line in Uganda and Ground Zero in New York in becoming “green” to coincide with the global celebration of St Patrick’s Day.

New buildings and sites which took part this year included One World Trade Center in New York (the main building of the re-built World Trade Center complex in New York and the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere), the beautiful Petit Palais on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc in Barcelona.

This year, the global ‘Greening’ spanned mainland Europe, Great Britain, North America as well as Australia, South Africa, Kenya and United Arab Emirates, among others.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, in a statement said: “This is the eighth year of Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative and it’s bigger and better than ever this year, with some wonderful (and unusual!) new additions like the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft in Addis Ababa, The Kelpies in Scotland and the rhino statues in Nairobi National Park. St Patrick’s Day traditionally marks the real start of the tourism season for us; our aim is to bring a smile to the faces of people around the world and to convey the message that Ireland offers the warmest of welcomes and great fun, as well as wonderful scenery and heritage.”

By Jackson Bambo.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests (IDF) in 2012. The Day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests. Countries are encouraged to undertake activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns. The theme for 2017 is Forests and Energy.

Forests have provided us with wood for cooking and heating for thousands of years – but today the relationship between forests and energy is more critical than ever. Cheap, easily accessible fossil fuels are running out, and their use releases huge amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, driving climate change and acidifying oceans and posing threat to human wellbeing.

Kenya Forests Working Group’s mission to promote sustainable forest management in Kenya through research, advocacy, networking and partnerships development for improved livelihoods for all Kenyans, is at risks, as the country’s population grows and competition for land becomes more acute, producing more bioenergy could increase food and water shortages, and destroy natural habitats. Pollution and climate change, along with the harmful impacts of drilling, mining, and transportation of these fuels, pose a very serious threat to the natural treasures we work to protect. It is critical that the Kenya moves away from fossil fuels and swiftly toward renewable, non-polluting, and environmentally sustainable sources of energy.

Given the enormous growth in energy use and consumption of fossil fuels over the last century, KFWG recognizes that it is unrealistic to expect an immediate shift to renewable energy. However, a conservative strategy based on improved energy efficiency, transitions to cleaner fuels, and the investment in and the rapid adoption of renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar power, offers enormous promise.

The need for renewable energy, and the economic opportunities it presents, must be tempered by a realistic evaluation of its impacts. Poorly designed or sited renewable energy projects can have serious negative environmental impacts. KFWG urges policy makers, project developers and others to carefully consider the following issues when evaluating renewable energy proposals.

What social and environmental safeguards are needed to manage these risks? And can we produce more energy and still achieve our goal of zero forest loss and degradation?

 

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