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Kingpin Behind Bars for Poaching Chimps in Africa
A man who has admitted trafficking more than 500 endangered chimpanzees out of the West African country Republic of Guinea has been captured and sentenced to the maximum possible jail term and a fine, according to a law enforcement group involved with the case.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
The organization Guinée Application de la Loi Faunique (GALF) says convicted kingpin Ousmane Diallo and his two accomplices, who also received prison sentences, have been implicated in the poaching of chimps, lions, leopards, hyenas and tropical birds over the past decade.
“Breaking these networks will require a real commitment from the Guinean authorities as major criminals take advantage of the lack of political will and the lightness of the penalties,” said Charlotte Houpline, GALF founder and coordinator. “But this time the result is excellent, we arrested one of biggest ape traffickers and we obtained one year in prison against him, the most severe penalty under Guinean law for this type of offense. It is a historic decision.”
Poaching and trafficking of chimpanzees has driven the species into severe decline. All cross-border trade in great apes like chimps, gorillas and orang-utans is prohibited under international law, but the demand for the animals by zoos, wildlife parks and as exotic pets has continued. Republic of Guinea was sanctioned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species earlier this year for circumventing rules meant to safeguard the country’s wild animals.
“Poachers target young chimpanzees for the illegal pet trade, but their families will often fight to the death to protect them," said David Greer of World Wildlife Fund (WWF). "For every baby that is exported alive another 10 chimps may have died. Infants often perish from the trauma of capture leading poachers to pursue yet another victim, and repeating time and again the tragic killing scenario.”
“There are as few as 8,000 chimpanzees remaining in Republic of Guinea.” Greer says. “To prevent ape populations from careening toward extinction, countries across West and Central Africa must provide better protection, undertake more thorough investigations, conduct rigorous prosecutions, eradicate corruption in the legal system and impose stronger penalties to deter poachers and traffickers.”
The operation to apprehend the fugitive syndicate was undertaken by the Guinean government’s INTERPOL bureau and GALF. WWF supports GALF’s work on wildlife crime investigations. During the sting, authorities seized 150 birds and were able to release them safely back into the wild.
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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