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Sniffing out the menace called poaching3 minutes read

The role of man’s best friend in the war against poaching

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Dogs have been instrumental over the years in the war against wildlife poachers. Photo credit: Smithsonian Magazine

There is an old saying that borders on hunters learning to shoot without aiming, since birds have learned to fly without perching. In the same vein, as perpetrators of illegal activities devise new ways to escape detection and punishment, those dedicated to apprehending them need to, in turn, implement new methods to remain one step ahead. The war against wildlife poaching still rages on as the years roll by, but in recent times, poachers and smugglers have had to deal with a new adversary: man’s best friend.

In hunting for hides, skin, horns and tusks, these people, whose life’s work is to put wildlife at risk for material gain, have deployed all sorts of modern weaponry in furthering their cause, but now they will have to deal with dogs, too. Deployed in various locations across six African countries, there are scores of these dogs, who have helped in tracking down smugglers and traffickers with their efficiency in sniffing out elephant tusks, rhino horns and pangolin scales.

Since Canines for Conservation, the programme initiated to involve dogs in the fight against wildlife poaching, kicked off in 2011, there have been 400 seizures of illegal wildlife products. These days, wildlife authorities in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana and Cameroon require employees to be skilled in dog handling. Employees who take up the handling of dogs undergo training programmes which stretch for up to 10 weeks, and they are also carefully matched with the dogs that they would be working with.

Wild animals are being poached on a massive scale, with millions of individual animals of thousands of species worldwide killed or captured from their native habitats. Poaching poses a growing threat to elephants, rhinos, and other charismatic animals. Some animals, such as birds, reptiles, and primates, are captured live so that they can be kept or sold as exotic pets. Slaughtered animals, on the other hand, have commercial value as food, jewellery, decor, or traditional medicine. The ivory tusks of African elephants, for example, are carved into trinkets or display pieces. The meat of apes, snakes, and other bush animals is considered a delicacy in parts of Africa.

Poaching has devastating consequences for wildlife. In some instances, it’s the primary reason why an animal faces a risk of extinction. This is the case with the African elephant, more than 100,000 of which were killed between 2014 and 2017 for ivory. Poaching has also had a catastrophic impact on rhinos, with more than a thousand slaughtered a year for their horns.

Training these dogs to top levels of detecting takes about 4 to 5 months.  All the wildlife products they are required to sniff out are hidden in various ways, from wrapping ivory in jars of coffee to putting a lion’s tooth in a thermos. The dogs sniff luggage and cargoes at airports, and the Canines for Conservation programme, aware of the tactics employed by traffickers, works closely with airport authorities in the countries where the dogs are deployed. These canine partners, whose role in fighting wildlife poachers over the years has been acknowledged, are also fed specially, and are kept in kennels and large spaces where they can relax.

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Feature News

Inside Africa’s largest media conference

Social Media Week Lagos presents another opportunity for media-focused conversations

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Social Media Week Lagos has grown to become arguably Africa's largest media gathering. Photo credit: nene-uwa.com.ng

Every year, thousands of media and technology enthusiasts come to Social Media Week (SMW) Lagos to hear from globally recognised brands, leading business executives and pop culture luminaries, all keenly focused on the future of Africa. Now in its eight year, the annual conference is now considered Africa’s largest tech and innovation event.

Social Media Week Lagos’ week-long programming focuses on ideas, trends, insights, business practices and policy that leverage technology to transform industries and communities across Africa. The 2018 edition hosted 23,364 visitors across the week and garnered an online social reach of 646.6 million, while the 2019 edition saw over 20,000 attendees across the week and had a online social reach of 557 million.

The significance of Social Media Week is in its ability yo bring together thought leaders, key stakeholders and the public to explore issues that are important for the modern world. The conference explores a wide range of topics including education, business, entertainment, technology, art, banking and politics. Through hundreds of events, Social Media Week Lagos aims to create opportunities for the continent’s most innovative minds.

This year, Social Media Week Lagos kicked off at the Landmark Event Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos on February 24 with the theme “Human.X”. The conference will feature conversations focused on what it means to take a human-first and experience-driven approach to innovation across industries, communities and the African continent. Social Media Week Lagos 2020 will host 21,580 attendees and feature 404 speakers across 184 events before its wrap on and February 28, 2020.

Some of this year’s speakers include: Jude “MI” Abaga, Segun Agbaje, Oluwatosin “Olorisupergal” Ajibade, Joey Akan, Kemi Lala Akindoju, Osagie Alonge, Osikhena “Osisuave” Dirisu, Ifu Ennada, Chude Jideonwo, Fuad Lawal, Vimbai Mutinhiri, Cheta Nwanze, Mildred Okwo, Oluwatosin Olaseinde, Adebola “Debola Lagos” Williams and Subomi Plumptre, among others.

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A region looking over its shoulders

Kenya and other East Africa are wary about the invasion of locusts.

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The rains have finally come to East Africa, but now there are locusts to worry about. Photo credit: The Atlantic.

Locusts are famed for their ravaging and destructive nature. Old Biblical accounts describe them as such, and in recent times, they have done little to change that impression, flying across continents and causing damage to agricultural systems.

These pests, known and feared for the amount of carnage they are capable of inflicting on vegetation, are currently darkening the skies across farmlands in Kenya, Ethiopia and other parts of East Africa. Breeding in parts of Yemen and Somalia, they migrate westwards to a climate currently characterised by frequent rainfall.

According to statistics provided by the United Nations, locusts could travel up to 150km (95 miles) in a day and eat their own body weight in greenery. What this means is that a swarm of locusts can eat as much food as 35,000 people in a day. Furthermore, during each three-month breeding cycle a single locust can breed 20 more, giving rise to the massive swarms that are now threatening crops across the East African sub-region.

Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti are battling the worst locust outbreak in decades, and swarms have also spread into Tanzania and Uganda. The invasion is worsening food shortages in a region where up to 25 million people are suffering after three consecutive years of droughts and floods, worryingly similar to the drought and famine that plagued northern Ethiopia in 1954 which was also caused by locust invasion.

According to pest control experts, the best option is to kill these menacing insects, and while there is the required technology to execute this, the quantity of said technology is debatable: Ethiopia reportedly has only three operational planes to spray insecticides, while Kenya has only five. According to the United Nations, about $76 million is urgently needed to provide more spraying resources in combating these pests.

It’s ironic that after the drought that haunted the region in late 2019, there is now rain which has facilitated the growth of crops, but the rain is not only providing a fertile environment for the breeding of locust eggs, it is also making it harder to spray insecticides. This is because it is more effective to kill locusts in the morning as they usually have little energy before the day warms up, but frequent early morning rain slows down spraying missions, and by the time the planes get close, the swarms are already high up in the air.

It is uncertain how long this pest invasion will last, so the best course of action is for the United Nations to collaborate with the countries in the sub-region, particularly in the provision of more insecticides and more spraying planes. It’s a long season up ahead, and if East Africa is going to repel the danger of a food crisis, these locusts cannot be allowed to win.

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Entertainment

Ishan wins big at 2020 Star FM Musical Awards

The young singer sweeps up four awards with his 2019 monster hit, ‘Kure’ featuring Ti Gonzi.

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Burgeoning Zimbabwean act Ishan emerged the biggest winner at the Star FM musical awards, scooping five awards at the event that was held on Saturday, February 22.

The singer went home with plaques from the Best African Pop Sing, Best Newcomer, Best Collaboration, Song of the Year and Most Played Song on Star FM categories.

Later that night, Ishan teamed up with rapper, Ti Gonzi to perform their award-winning hit single ‘Kure’ which won four awards at the event.

Ishan is followed by top Zimbabwean gospel singer Janet Manyowa who won two awards in the Best Gospel and Best Female Artiste categories.

Ti Gonzi on his part won the Best Male Artist Award while Takura secured the Best Hip-Hop song award with his 2019 smash, ‘Noise’.

Zimbabwean living icon Alick Macheso was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Check out the full list of winners below.

Best African Pop Song Award
‘Kure’ – Ishan ft. Ti Gonzi

Best Zimdancehall Song Award
‘Vroom’ – Nutty O

Best Hip-Hop Song Award
‘Noise’ – Takura

Best R&B Song Award
‘TV Room’ – Hilzy, Gary Mapanzure

Best House Song Award
‘Bad News’ – DJ Stavo ft. Gemma

Best Song by Zimbabwean in the Diaspora Award
‘Chihera’ – Norman Masamba

Best Gospel Song Award
‘Ndimi’ – Janet Manyowa

Best Newcomer Award
Ishan ft. Ti Gonz – ‘Kure’

Best Female Artist Award
Janet Manyowa

Best Male Artist Award
Ti Gonzi

Best Duo/Group Award
Ngoma Ingoma – ‘Malobolo’

Best Collaboration Award
‘Kure’ – Ishan ft. Ti Gonzi

Best Producer Award
Cymplex

Song of the Year Award
‘Kure’ – ‘Ishan ft. Ti Gonzi

Album of the Year Award
Francesca – King 98

People’s Choice Award
‘Ngaibake’ by Freeman ft. Alick Macheso

Most Played Song on Star FM
‘Kure’ by Ishan ft .Ti Gonzi

Lifetime Achievement Award
Alick Macheso

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