Blog about animals
Selected the best cow in Germany
Fishing ban proposed near Rockall after rare scientific finds
Life and death on the riverbank
Baboon shot dead after escaping from Knowsley Safari Park
Birdwatch: Peregrine falcon
Iceland's fin whales are endangered. Stop this bloody cull
The pitfalls of elderly dog insurance
Valley where Edward Carpenter, gay rights campaigner and socialist, walked
Green groups warn government of national parks hunting backlash
Demand for ivory destabilising central Africa
Dog walker found neighbour trampled by cows, inquest hears
Cat stands for election in Mexican city
I hear some hip cat's running for mayor in Mexico. That gives me an idea
Wader chick fever grips birds and spotters alike
Philippines destroys five tonnes of elephant tusks
The Dwyfor is surely one of the loveliest of Welsh rivers
New to nature No 107: Typhochlaena costae
How to beat the midges this summer
Controversial herring gull cull gets green light
Whaling's day in court is a sea change for conservation
Australia censures Japan for 'scientific' whaling
The young red deer stags were on their hind legs boxing, just like hares
Our garden's blackbirds started their nest-building early this year
UK wildlife and nature hit hard by erratic weather
  Demand for ivory destabilising central Africa
The massacre of elephants has gone beyond being a problem for animal rights activists. It now concerns international institutions and governments at the highest level because it is perceived as a threat to political and economic stability in central Africa.

Last month, the matter drew the attention of the African Development Bank in Marrakech, at an annual assembly that was also attended by African finance ministers. The bank's president, the Rwandan economist Donald Kaberuka, presented a global action plan addressing the problem along with the World Wildlife Fund.

"This is not just an environmental problem," according to the bank's Marrakech Declaration. "The violence and damage now threaten peace and the rule of law, as well as the revenue many African countries earn from tourism and other wildlife uses; some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities suffer ... wildlife trafficking thwarts governments' efforts to stop other illicit trades, such as arms and drugs. It fuels organised crime and corruption, and compromises regional security."

Kaberuka asked the finance ministers at the meeting to strengthen customs controls as a first step, saying these were key to dismantling smuggling networks.

The matter has also reached the UN. Last month, the UN secretary general presented a report to the security council on concerns about the links between poaching and the "criminal or even terrorist networks threatening the stability of central Africa". The most vulnerable countries were said to be Cameroon, which has deployed army patrols in its northern national parks, the Central African Republic, Chad and Gabon.

The report said that "the illegal ivory trade may currently constitute a major source of funding for armed groups", quoting the example of the Lord's Resistance Army. It also expressed concerns that poachers are using ever more sophisticated and powerful weapons, some of which, it is believed, may be originating from the political fallout in Libya.

The plan proposed by the African Development Bank in Marrakech recommends strengthening the resources of anti-poaching patrols, monitoring the strict application of the laws and increasing the penalties imposed on the traffickers.

These ideas are not new. Both the diagnosis and the cure have been known for many years. An action plan for African elephants was adopted in 2010 with $600,000 from China, France, Germany, the Netherlands and South Africa. "Now we need a commitment at the highest level, since that alone will enable us to contain this crisis," said Jim Leape, director general of WWF's international secretariat.

Some 30,000 elephants were killed in 2011, nearly 8% of the total elephant population in Africa, and the number has been rising steadily since 2006. The present levels are the highest since the 1989 moratorium on the ivory trade.

Gabon alone has lost 60% of its elephant population in the past decade and has already taken action. In Marrakech, Gabon's president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, proposed setting up an emergency task force that could intervene as soon as any large-scale poaching occurred in one of the countries. In mid-May Gabonese forces were sent to the Central African Republic to help defend the Dzanga-Sangha national park after an attack on elephants there.

"It is important to intervene before the situation gets out of control. Otherwise we know that there is a great risk of entering a spiral that ultimately leads to the creation of a new conflict zone," said Lee White, the executive secretary of Gabon's National Parks Agency.

Gabon has also suggested greater co-operation in training between the various national animal protection agencies, and providing "ecoguards" in the weakest countries.

The Gabonese president urged the establishment of a support fund for the widows and orphans of those guards. "Trafficking has become more and more violent and traffickers no longer hesitate before shooting any rangers who cross them," said White, who estimates the total cost of these actions at $15m a year.

Ondimba, who is working to get more international co-operation in the fight against wildlife trafficking, announced the action plan in an effort to spur progress on the matter at the next UN annual national assembly in September. But as the WWF's Leape put it: "Ivory trafficking is a two-headed monster. Targeting the poachers won't be enough if, at the same time, we don't deal with the countries providing an opening for this trade."
'Wild' animals in travelling circuses benefit no one
The intoxicated world of the spotted flycatcher
Fishing quotas can be redistributed to favour smaller vessels high court
Madagascar battling worst locust plague since 1950s
A broody sparrow meets his match
Climate change is happening too quickly for species to adapt
The weird and wonderful world of the naked mole rat
Australian woman seriously injured during Spanish bull run
Spain's endangered Iberian lynx brought back from brink of extinction
One man and his sniffer dog help tackle Germany's hidden drug problem
The hotel that only takes dogs
T rex tooth found embedded in prey, restoring dinosaur's reputation
Bog cotton covers the summer Peak District moors in snow
Lifelike after death: the intricacies of a taxidermist's craft
The six-spot burnet moths complete their transformation
Research on animals in UK rises by 8% to exceed 4m procedures
Animal testing it's time to talk about it again
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New to nature no 109: Anochetus hohenbergiae
England's ceremonial mayors eschew fur to support animal rights
Birdwatch: Corn bunting
Madrid declares war on plague of raccoon and parrot invaders
Snow leopards and wild yaks becoming 'fashion victims'
Horn seizure prompts rhinos warning
Threatened seabirds 'neglected' in plans for Scottish marine protected areas
Los Angeles campgrounds closed after plague-infected squirrel found
Only when I look down at the last second do I see it. I recoil instinctively
China's wine boom of little profit to giant pandas and small farmers
Let's not martyr the white-throated needletail to the anti-wind cause
Grasshopper breeder up for design award and educating western palates
Spanish national park could lose Unesco status over illegal boreholes
Dog mauls boy at primary school in Northern Ireland
Our dog walks are punctuated by the corn bunting's jingling ringtone
End in sight for painful branding of semi-wild moorland ponies
New to nature No 108: Carlia decora
Penguins support gorillas as biscuit makers respond to palm oil threat
Measuring carbon age in ivory could help combat poaching, study shows
How to survive a seagull attack
A walk by the river triggers memories of a bygone age
Whales flee from military sonar leading to mass strandings, research shows
Down among the grass stems, a ball of recently hatched orb-web spiderlings
Owen Paterson vows to rid England of bovine TB with badger culls
Gassing of badgers considered in plan to eradicate TB in cattle
Visitors to the Pamplona bull run have blood on their hands
Bats: they've never had it so good
These dew ponds have been on the Downs possibly since medieval times
Australian bushman claims to have footage of legendary night parrot
Secret badger shoots pose 'a risk to public safety'
Cheshire police seize dog believed to have killed Pomeranian
Whale watching season is back - but how close is too close?
Plan to ban wild animals in travelling circuses 'goes too far'
Morrissey donates Channel 4 payout to Peta campaign against foie gras
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