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Poachers slaughter hundreds of elephants in Cameroon
by Staff Writers
Yaounde (AFP) Feb 18, 2012

Chinese men face deportation in Zimbabwe over tortoise meat
Harare (AFP) Feb 18, 2012 - Four Chinese men face deportation from Zimbabwe after they were arrested for killing more than 40 tortoises for meat, a state daily reported Saturday, citing a statement by an animal rights group.

The Herald newspaper said Zhang Hong Yuan, Chen Caijan, Lin Guibin and Shi Jiahua were arrested in a village in Bikita in southeastern Zimbabwe on Thursday, following a raid by the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA), the police and parks and wildlife authorities.

"When we raided the Chinese homestead, we also recovered 13 live tortoises, meat together with skeletal remains of a further 40 tortoises," the newspaper quoted SZSPCA chairman Ed Lance as saying.

"Officers were dispatched to Bikita in order to undertake investigations into the matter and charges of cruelty were laid against the four. The four men are now detained pending deportation."

The animals were kept in steel drums without water or food, the Herald said.

The tortoise is listed as an endangered species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Villagers who gave statements to the police said the tortoises were dropped alive in boiling water to separate the shell and the flesh.

Poachers have slaughtered some 200 elephants in a national park in northern Cameroon, about a third of the population, and the massacre is still going on, according to a wildlife protection group.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said a gang of Sudanese poachers had killed the free roaming elephants in the Bouba Ndjida National Park in northern Cameroon, near the border with Chad, in an unprecedented attack.

"At least 100 elephant carcasses have been found in the park in the past month and ongoing shooting is making it impossible to conduct a further, detailed assessment of the situation," IFAW said on its website.

"It is understood that more carcasses are expected to be found in unexplored regions of Bouba Ndjida."

The organisation said many orphaned elephant calves had been spotted abandoned following the shootings and concerns were high the babies may soon die of hunger and thirst.

"Their deaths will only compound the impact of the poaching spree on the Cameroons threatened elephant populations," it said.

IFAW official Celine Sissler-Bienvenu said it was common for armed gangs of poachers to cross from Sudan during the dry season to kill elephants for their ivory.

"But this latest massacre is massive and has no comparison to those of the preceding years," she said.

"The ivory is smuggled out of West and Central Africa for markets in Asia and Europe, and the money it raises funds arms purchases for use in regional conflicts, particularly ongoing unrest in Sudan and in the Central African Republic," Sissler-Bienvenu added.

IFAW said Britain, France, the European Union and the United States had voiced alarm and called on the Cameroon authorities to take urgent action to stop the killing.

Sissler-Bienvenu said the only answer was to end demand for ivory especially in Asia and to ensure conservation officials in range states were provided with skills and the equipment necessary to counter professional gangs of poachers.

"Since 2009 IFAW has provided anti-poaching assessment, training and support to rangers and conservation officials in central African countries which face severe challenges in the fight to end the bloody and cruel illegal ivory trade," she said.

"What these countries now need is the commitment of the international community to financially support these highly skilled and motivated trainees to be able to meet the task of protecting elephants."

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S.Africa to deploy more soldiers to fight rhino poaching
Pretoria (AFP) Feb 19, 2012 - South Africa will deploy hundreds more soldiers to its borders to crack down on international syndicates blamed for a surge in rhino poaching, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said Sunday.

"We will be deploying a further four military companies on the Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho borders as of April 2012, bringing the total number of companies to seven," he told reporters.

Each company comprises 150 soldiers.

"The deployment includes army engineers who are conducting repairs and maintenance on the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border fence, which is approximately 140 kilometres (85 miles)," he added.

Troops were first deployed on April 1, 2011, along the Mozambican border, many of them inside the world-famous Kruger National Park -- one of South Africa's premier tourist draws that has become a magnet for poachers.

Despite their sometimes deadly clashes with poachers, the military deployment has so far failed to stop the poaching crisis. A record 448 rhinos were killed in South Africa last year -- more than half of them inside Kruger.

In 2007, the total was just 13, but demand for rhino horn in Asian traditional medicine has rocketed, especially in China and Vietnam, where they are thought to have powerful healing properties.

But rhino horns are mostly made of the same substance as human fingernails, and have no special medical value, say scientists.

South Africa blames the surge in poaching on international syndicates who slip across the vast land borders to kill the rhinos, and then smuggle the horns to Asia.


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The Developing Genome?
Tel Aviv, Israel (SPX) Feb 17, 2012
Since Charles Darwin first put forth the theory of evolution, scientists have been trying to unlock the mysteries of genetics. But research on the genome - the organism's entire hereditary package encoded in DNA and RNA - has been less extensive. There is a tendency to think of the genome as a static and passive container of information, says Dr. Ehud Lamm of Tel Aviv University's Cohn Institute ... read more

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