This video from England says about itself:
26 March 2015
This 25 March 2015 video is called TAIWAN: 283 MISLABELED JAPANESE FOOD PRODUCTS ORIGINATED NEAR FUKUSHIMA.
By Stephanie Chao, The China Post in Taiwan:
283 mislabeled Japanese food products originated near Fukushima: gov’t
March 25, 2015, 12:05 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan — More than 283 Japanese food products imported from the radiation-stricken areas near the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster were found to be relabeled as having come from other areas of Japan and sold to local customers, authorities said yesterday.
Officials from New Taipei City‘s Department of Health, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and other law-enforcement authorities, seized the mislabeled products, although a substantial portion had already been sold to consumers.
Authorities inspected warehouses in New Taipei City belonging to food companies such as Sheng Yu (盛裕), Li Tuo (勵拓), Sun Friend (上煬) and Tai Crown (太冠).
Health Department officials said Sheng Yu imported soy sauce labeled “Tokyo-made” last month. In reality, they were manufactured in areas that have import restrictions, such as Chiba (千葉), Gumma (群馬), Fukushima (福島), Ibaraki (茨城) and Tochigi (櫪木) prefectures.
Nineteen products originated from areas exposed to radiation and five other products have expired, the department said.
The department also investigated Li Tuo, Sun Friend and Tai Crown’s warehouses in Taishan, Xinzhuang and Xindian districts. They discovered several products from areas with import restrictions: seven from Li Tuo, 25 from Sun Friend and 19 from Tai Crown.
Further investigation revealed downstream companies that stock the imported products include well-known Japanese department stores, food chains and boutiques, including Wellcome (頂好), JPMed (日藥本舖), Matsusei (松青), Shin Kong Mitsukoshi (新光三越), B&Q (特力屋) and HOLA.
Officials have discovered a total of 2,391 kilograms of problematic products and will continue to investigate.
Food and Drug Administration chief Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) pointed out there has been a rise in reports of products from the five areas that were affected by the Fukushima crisis. The administration and police investigated areas including Hsinchu County, Taichung City, Tainan City and Kaohsiung City from March 19 to 21.
Investigators found around 3,000 products with mislabeled origins at the Port of Keelung. More than 300 products were reported to have been imported from the five prefectures exposed to radiation.
The investigations have proven to be difficult because Japanese and Taiwanese companies have different management practices, Chiang said. The administration has resolved to crack down on the 10 companies involved with the mislabeled products.
The Health Department has also said the companies will take responsibility and full refunds will be provided for consumers with products and receipts for purchases made on or after March 11, 2011.
Products found in violation of the law have been pulled from the shelves. The import companies have also been ordered to inform downstream sellers to cease the sale of all the said products within a week.
I wonder: did Japanese corporations export these ‘radiant’ Fukushima food products fraudulently to other countries besides Taiwan? And how about selling this radioactive food in Japan itself?
Setback at Fukushima No. 1 plant threatens reactor 3 rod removal — The Japan Times: here.
From Middle East Eye:
The UK could have stopped my husband being tortured in Bahrain
Friday 27 March 2015 09:34 GMT
The UK refused to grant Hussain Jawad asylum and now he is in a Bahraini prison due to his human rights activism
My husband Hussain Jawad has been in prison for more than a month. Every day, I get flashbacks about the night he was taken by state security from our home in Bahrain.
Hussain is a human rights defender and chairperson of the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR).
On 16 February 2015, at 1am, he was arrested by 15 masked, plainclothes police officers. They insulted him by calling him a donkey and shouted: “damn you and the human rights field you work in”.
Hussain was then taken to the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) and he has since called me from prison to tell me of the torture he says has been subjected to there. He said CID officers handcuffed him and forced him to stand in a narrow, freezing cell.
They beat his back, chest, and head. Officers told him he would “never leave this place” and that they could fabricate more than 20 cases against him – adding up to a lifetime in prison.
He says officers have repeatedly threatened him with further violence if he does not admit to charges that include “rioting, participating in illegal gatherings and possession of Molotov cocktails”.
“If you don’t admit willingly in five minutes to save your honour, I will shove your honour up your ass,” one officer said to him.
“Do you want us to squeeze your mother’s milk out of your chest?” another asked.
One interrogator, he told me, touched his genitals and asked: “Do you want me to make you urinate or not have kids?”
The same man threatened to rape Hussain by inserting a pipe into his anus.
After all of this abuse and intimidation my husband signed a number of false confessions, including four different charges – one of which was “collecting money to fund saboteurs”.
When I asked him why he signed them, he told me: “CID is worse than hell itself.”
There is mounting evidence of the Bahraini authorities having tortured political prisoners, however, they continue to deny mistreating detainees.
My husband has a long history of human rights activism and this is not the first time he has been arrested, but this time it could have been avoided.
In November 2013, the government arrested Hussain for a speech he had given that month which called for peaceful reform. He was charged with “criticising government institutions” and “insulting the flag and emblem of Bahrain”.
That case is still going through the court system.
On 30 January 2014, shortly after being released from prison on bail, Hussain fled Bahrain to seek asylum in the United Kingdom.
I believed he had a good case. His arrest in Bahrain was public knowledge and I had hoped the asylum plea would be processed quickly in the UK so that we could be reunited as a family to raise our young son, Parweez.
But upon his arrival in the UK, Hussain was held for four days at the Harmondsworth Detention Centre. He was then referred to Fast Track Detention (FTD) – a process for non-urgent cases for asylum seekers who will likely be returned to their home country.
I didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless.
The Bahraini community in London – many of whom live in exile – helped me to hire lawyers from Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors, who filed a case against the UK Home Office to try and challenge Hussain likely being refused asylum.
My husband suffered badly throughout this process. He was released from the detention centre but had no way of supporting himself. For days he would be confined to his hostel, unable to buy food, waiting in vain to hear about his asylum claim.
When he first left, I honestly thought it wouldn’t take more than two months before we were reunited because of my belief in the strength of his case. I believed that we would live freely and in peace to raise our son Parweez. But after eight months without him and with no progress made on his case, I began to worry for our safety. I was worried that his continuing activism could anger authorities here in Bahrain. I was worried they would come after me, and that my son would have no one.
During Hussain’s absence, Parweez had to undergo an open-heart surgery. I had to take care of my sick child in the hospital without the emotional support of his father. We depended on Skype and social media to stay in touch.
On 28 August 2014, Hussain came home to Bahrain, having given up hope of winning asylum and out of a desire to be reunited with me and Parweez.
It was just five months later that he was re-arrested in the middle of the night at our home.
My son’s birthday was on 28 February. Hussain has now missed his last two birthdays: this year he is in prison and last year he was in the UK hoping for asylum to help us escape repression in our home country.
Hussain continues to be held in custody and his next trial hearing will be on 7 April.
We don’t know what will happen to him – there are thousands of political prisoners in Bahrain and many are serving years and years in prison for crimes that amount to no more than challenging the autocratic rule of the al-Khalifa royal family.
While the Bahraini authorities are the ones ultimately responsible for the treatment of my husband – and they should release him immediately – his latest arrest and subsequent suffering in prison was entirely avoidable.
I don’t know if the UK did not award Hussain asylum because of their well-known close ties with the Bahraini royals, but what is clear is that their refusal to give my family safe refuge has directly exposed my husband to the torture he says he has been experiencing in prison.
– Asma Darwish is the head of information and media relations at the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR). She is married to EBOHR Chairman, Hussain Jawad and the mother of two-year-old Parweez.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: Hussein Jawad and Asma Darwish pose together for a photograph (MEE/Asma Darwish)
* Faten Bushehri – a Bahraini freelance journalist and human and civil rights advocate – also contributed to this article.
Bahrain: Ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Hussain Jawad: here.
Lifting [United States] arms restrictions to Bahrain would enable the regime’s oppression: here.
This video from London, England says about itself:
Recorded from BBC Parliament, 10 June 2013.
For the CIA, United States domestic spying on anyone is illegal. Nevertheless, in practice it turns out that the CIA spies even on the United States Senate committee monitoring their torture and other activities.
Now, to Britain. By Luke James in London:
SPIED-ON MPs DEMAND TO SEE SPOOKS‘ FILES
Friday 27th March 2015
Furious Labour politicians call for the release of secret reports on their personal and political lives
LABOUR MPs targeted by police spooks demanded the release yesterday of secret files compiled on their political and personal lives over 10 years.
But Ms Harman argued that he was kicking the issue into the long grass, saying: “I would like you to assure me that you, the government, will let me see a full copy of my file.
Jack Straw said that the evidence suggested he was being spied on even while he was home secretary between 1997 and 2001.
During the urgent question, Mr Skinner asked why the spooks “only seem to pursue socialists?”
Mr Corbyn also pressed Mr Penning to secure the release of the “full, unredacted version” of his file.
“If I was under surveillance, or the late Bernie Grant or any of my friends, then presumably the police were at whatever meetings we attended and recorded whatever phone calls we made,” he said.
“I think we have a right to know about that.”
The minister promised the pair that he would “make sure that as much as can be released is released” but added that there may be security reasons for material being withheld or censored.
A Home Office spokesman told the Star that the final decision on whether to redact information would be made by the Metropolitan Police, which holds the files.
The Morning Star contacted the Met to ask whether it would release the files in full.
In a statement, a Met spokeswoman said: “While talking openly about undercover policing is challenging because of its very nature, the upcoming inquiry represents a real opportunity to provide the public with as complete a picture as possible of what has taken place.”
She added that Operation Herne, the police investigation into misconduct by Met officers, was “very willing to engage” with Mr Francis about his claims. Operation Herne maintains that without speaking to Peter Francis it is simply not possible to fully investigate allegations he makes,” she said.
But Labour MP John McDonnell said that the government should first guarantee Mr Francis immunity from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
Mr McDonnell tabled an early day motion last week calling on the Pitchford inquiry to examine evidence given by Mr Francis that the Met also spied on trade unions, the family of murder victim Stephen Lawrence and anti-fascist groups.
This video says about itself:
Recorded from BBC Parliament, 10 June 2013.
From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
Friday 27th March 2015
DENNIS SKINNER hit the nail on the head yesterday as Parliament discussed revelations that the Met Police had been spying on MPs – and even, it seems, at one point the Home Secretary.
“Why is it they only seem to pursue leftwingers and socialists?” the Beast of Bolsover asked Police Minister Mike Penning.
The Tory’s response – that since he had once been an FBU member who stood on picket lines he may himself have been snooped on- was hardly reassuring.
From Edward Snowden unmasking in 2013 the vast international surveillance conducted by the US National Security Agency to this year’s finding by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal that GCHQ’s information sharing with the agency was illegal for seven years, British citizens have got used to the idea that the state is always watching.
Certainly the news that Blairite warmonger Jack Straw, who as home secretary increased police powers and tried to restrict the right to trial by jury, was being spied on himself by an organisation he was supposedly in charge of has a touch of the comic.
But as Mr Skinner points out, this is not simply a case of MPs being subject to the same unjustified intrusion to which the rest of us are subjected.
Special Branch was highly selective about who it spied on. Among the names revealed by whistleblower Peter Francis are well known socialists familiar to this paper’s readers. Mr Skinner himself of course, Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn – as well as veterans of the anti-apartheid and anti-racist movements such as Peter Hain and Diane Abbott and peace campaigner Dame Joan Ruddock.
By contrast, as the Bolsover MP eloquently puts it, “all those paedophiles managed to disappear into thin air.”
The appalling abuse of children perpetuated by MPs such as Cyril Smith and allegedly also by members of Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet were evidently of less concern to the police than legitimate political campaigning.
The picture this paints of the British state is not an attractive one. But it is sadly familiar.
State power in this country is exercised by a ruling capitalist class. That doesn’t change depending on election results.
Labour has often proved a tame servant of that ruling class in office, but the party does represent the aspirations of millions of ordinary workers and its MPs include socialists who do fight for a Britain governed in their interests.
Hence the Establishment’s continued suspicion of the party, displayed in the fact that all the names released by Mr Francis were Labour MPs just as it is seen daily in hysterical attacks on Ed Miliband in the pages of newspapers owned by tax-dodging tycoons.
This alone is an indication that those on the left who see no difference between Britain’s biggest parties are missing something. If Labour were just another bunch of neoliberals, the rich wouldn’t care wheter it won May’s election or not.
So this scandal is not ultimately about the rights of MPs or the extent of parliamentary privilege.
As Mr Corbyn said yesterday, MPs can at least grill the Home Office about why they were spied on – “but many, many others unknown to us do not have that opportunity.”
Clearly the state has been treating trade unionists, socialists, peace and anti-racism campaigners as “the enemy within,” whether they’re ordinary citizens, MPs or ministers.
Lord Pitchford’s inquiry into undercover policing must expose the whole rotten business. But only revolutionary change, for a Britain run by its people and not by a shadowy elite, can hope to end it.
Policeman Darren Wilson killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, USA. He did not get indicted for that (because of fraudulent testimony by an ‘eyewitness’, a self-confessed racist, who had not been to Ferguson).
However, if you don’t kill anyone, but are a journalist … More and more authorities seem to have trouble distinguishing between journalism, little children, archeologists, Nelson Mandela, Senator Edward Kennedy etc. etc. and ‘terrorism’.
From Associated Press in the USA:
Trial set for videographer arrested covering Ferguson
By JIM SALTER and ALAN SCHER ZAGIER
03/24/2015 12:30 PM
A video journalist arrested while covering the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown was fatally shot last summer plans to fight the charges at trial.
St. Louis-based videographer Mary Moore said she wants her reputation, and her criminal record, cleared. Moore was among 13 people taken into custody during a demonstration outside Ferguson police headquarters in early October, and was charged with municipal violations.
Protests have continued since Brown, who was black and unarmed, was shot and killed Aug. 9 by then-Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Moore is one of an estimated two dozen journalists from around the world and among the hundreds of people who’ve been arrested in Ferguson.
Moore, whose videos have been used by The Associated Press, TV networks and other news organizations, is among the few journalists to actually go to court. She was charged with failure to comply, failure to disperse and resisting arrest. She said she was not part of the protest, but was simply documenting it on video.
Ferguson’s city attorney said Tuesday that Moore “was participating in the protest and attempted to interfere … by locking arms with other protesters.”
“There was no resisting,” Moore said Monday in a phone interview. “I’m not an idiot.”
Moore’s case was set for trial in late June at a brief hearing Tuesday morning in Ferguson’s municipal court — the same venue singled out in a withering U.S. Department of Justice report that found the St. Louis suburb operated a profit-driven system that heightened tensions among black residents for years before Brown’s death.
The Missouri Supreme Court appointed a state appeals court judge to hear cases in Ferguson’s courtroom following the ouster of the private-practice attorney who previously presided there. Moore said she is considering whether to seek a change of venue to St. Louis County Circuit Court.
The San Francisco-based Freedom of the Press Foundation tracked 19 journalist arrests in August — including two at a McDonald’s just days after Brown’s death — one in September, two in October and two in November. Trevor Timm, executive director of the foundation, said charges were not filed in most cases.
Missouri’s online court reporting system does not show state charges against any of the arrested journalists, but Ferguson city charges would not appear there. A Ferguson spokesman did not return messages seeking comment.
Timm said there are ample witnesses, along with plenty of video evidence, showing that most of the journalists arrested in Ferguson were simply trying to do their jobs.
“The police were acting on a hair-trigger and weren’t respecting the First Amendment rights of both journalists and protesters,” Timm said.
Forty-eight media organizations, including the AP, sent a letter to Ferguson law enforcement officials in August, criticizing treatment of reporters.
The only recent event that spurred more arrests of journalists was the Occupy movement in 2011 and 2012. Josh Stearns, director of journalism and sustainability for the New Jersey-based Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, reported that more than 90 journalists were arrested in 12 U.S. cities during Occupy protests.
After her arrest, Moore and 12 protesters were taken to a jail in nearby St. Ann, forced to change into orange jail jumpsuits
and kept overnight in a single cell with a few other people arrested for unrelated reasons, she said.
Moore, who’s in her early 40s but declined to give her exact age, said the arrest has harmed her reputation and has been a source of stress.
“There is nothing worse than being accused of something when you know you don’t represent that,” she said. “I take pride in being a civic person. When you say I did these things and you know better, that’s a problem for me.”
Missouri: Former Cardinals Player Curt Ford Victim Of Racist Attack, Told To ‘Go Back To Ferguson': Report here.
HOW FERGUSON’S POLICE FORCE COLLECTED MILLIONS IN TICKETS “In dozens of interviews with The Huffington Post over the past several months, residents have called the [municipal court] system ‘out of control,’ ‘inhumane,’ ‘crazy,’ ‘racist,’ ‘unprofessional’ and ‘sickening.’ Some have told stories of being slapped with large fines for minor violations and threatened with jail if they couldn’t pay. ‘Everyone’s got a horror story about the police,’ former St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch told HuffPost in a recent interview. ‘And most of that horror story relates back to being ticketed for some minor violation.'” [Ryan Reilly and Mariah Stewart, HuffPost]
Ferguson and the Criminalization of American Life: here.
This video from Britain says about itself:
These Trees Are Made of Blood – Minidoc (Client: Lucy Jackson Productions)
2 March 2014
By Michal Boncza in England:
Theatre: War crimes caught in the acts
Wednesday 25th March 2015
The appalling enormity of the crimes instigated by the US beggars belief to this very day. But These Trees Are Made of Blood by Amy Draper, Paul Jenkins and Darren Clark rapidly dispels such misgivings.
In the theatre’s small C-shaped auditorium, the crowded intimacy of a cabaret is recreated as the quartet of musicians in the corner play The Boy from Buenos Aires.
The “hosts” for the night are the 1976 putschists, the supreme commanders of the three branches of the armed forces, whose rationalisation of their odious deeds is subjected by the authors to biting ridicule — the targeting of the nazis in the musical Cabaret comes to mind — yet the hint of menace and foreboding is never far away.
To the authors’ credit, the combination of slapstick and song is an effective device — bar some ancient jokes — in advancing the narrative in which Greg Barnett is suitably slimy as The General while Alexander Luttley as the air force chief emanates egotism and duplicity.
So far, so satirical, but in an unexpected development one of the guests of the show Gloria Benitez (Val Jones) sees her daughter disappear when invited on stage to join the naval chief (Neil Kelso) in his magic tricks.
This tragedy, and her evolution from housewife to protester with the legendary Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, is charted with unassuming mastery by Jones.
After the interval the mood changes and, in a series of rapid vignettes, the historical blanks are filled in.
There’s a fair degree of disconcerting detail, some loose ends and short cuts that may baffle some in what occasionally comes across as over-elaborate. But it remains a riveting production, directed by Amy Draper with panache, with a cast that is as gifted as it is passionate. The songs by Darren Clark effectively catch the nuances of mood and, Greek chorus-style, comment on the action.
That culminates in a powerful theatrical moment at the conclusion when the curtains around the auditorium are drawn back, revealing walls filled top-to-bottom with the faces of the disappeared to a shell-shocked audience.
This video is called Amy Draper: These Trees Are Made Of Blood; rehearsal.
These video from London says about itself:
These Trees are Made of Blood Trailer
16 March 2015
At Southwark Playhouse from 18 March – 11 April 2015
Call 020 7407 0234 or click here to buy tickets.
And for our next act …
The Magical Military Junta …
Will make 30,000 people disappear before your very eyes.
During the 70s and 80s, Argentina was locked in a period of state terrorism, with a military dictatorship waging war on suspected left-wing political sympathizers. Thousands of citizens were “disappeared”; seized by the authorities and rarely heard from again.
Set in a timeless Buenos Aires cabaret club before, during and after Argentina’s Dirty War, These Trees are Made of Blood tells the story of one Mother’s search for her daughter. Blending original live music and exciting cabaret acts with an urgent narrative, this is a new piece of political theatre which promises to be an unforgettable audience experience.
So come on in. The club’s open all hours and history can always be rewritten after one too many.
This video says about itself:
These Trees are Made of Blood: How to make empanadas
5 March 2015
The team behind These Trees are Made of Blood give you a taste of what’s to come from this new production.
From Newsweek in the USA:
Africa’s Conservation Miracle: The Return of the Rhinos
By Simon Barnes / March 23, 2015 2:29 PM EDT
Habitat destruction. That’s almost always the answer to a question of wildlife conservation. Why has this species declined? Why has that species gone extinct? Because the place where it lives is being or has been destroyed.
The ever-increasing demands of the human population in India mean that there is less room for tigers. A vast suite of creatures – many unknown to science – go under every day with the continuing destruction of the rainforest. Migrating birds find their journey impossible when their rest-and-feed-up stopovers are destroyed. The baiji – Yangtze river dolphin – went extinct this century because of the pollution and traffic of its home river system.
It all comes back to one problem: that of the ever-expanding human population and its ever-increasing demands. But fly over the Luangwa Valley in Zambia and you see an endless expanse of glorious uncluttered savannah. It’s still wild as hell. Here is a habitat in the best possible shape, a place where conservation can for a moment set aside concerns about the loss of wild places.
If you take a walk anywhere in the two great national parks that dominate the valley – though you’d be well-advised to bring an armed scout – you will find yourself in perfect black rhino habitat. It’s mostly the kind of wooded savannah black rhinos love, studded with bushes, plenty of browse. Plenty, too, of Kigelia or sausage-trees: drooping with enormous elongated white fruit, so that each tree looks like an Italian delicatessen. Rhinos gourmandise on the fallen sausage-fruit, and scatter the seeds in their dung.
Forty years ago, Zambia had the third largest black rhino population in Africa: around 12,000, with 4,000 of them in the Luangwa Valley. Twenty years later there were none. They were declared extinct in Zambia in 1998. They had been poached out of existence in the 1970s and 1980s to meet illegal commercial markets. The Yemeni wanted the horns for dagger-handles, and the Chinese medicine trade has an immense and expanding appetite for them. Rhino horn is believed to help relieve fevers and disorders of the blood; it’s not used as an aphrodisiac, though the myth dies hard in the West.
There are five living rhino species: in Asia the Javan, Sumatran and Indian, in Africa the white and the black rhinoceros. (Both species are actually grey, and tend to be the colour of the country they live in, from their habit of ecstatic rolling and dust-bathing.) Tests in Switzerland found that rhino horn has no effect whatsoever on a mammalian body, good or bad, though an experiment by Chinese scientists demonstrated that immense doses had a very small effect at reducing fever in mice.
But it’s not about what rhino horn does, it’s about what people believe it does. And in the 1970s and 1980s the price it fetched was more than enough to establish an effective poaching industry in Zambia. It worked well until they ran out of rhinos. That left behind a still-perfect ecosystem lacking one of its most significant species. The North Luangwa National Park and the South Luangwa National Park are both jumping with elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and most of the sexy species of African megafauna. The Luangwa River has the highest density of hippos in the world and one of the highest concentrations of Nile crocodiles.
It’s a thriving place. The south park has a well-established tourist industry, one that tends to be well-run, with high ethical standards. The north park is different – no permanent camps, hardly any roads. The tourist industry there is scanty, expensive and adventurous. And there are black rhinos there.
If your prime target in conservation is birds, you have a much easier time of it. You just get the habitat right and wait for them to fly in. So how long do you have to wait for a flight of rhinos?
The answer is five years. They came in not under their own power, but by Hercules aircraft. Five of them landed in North Luangwa National Park in 2003, five years after the declared national extinction, rather longer since the last rhino was killed for its horn in Zambia.
The North Luangwa Conservation Programme (NLCP) had taken four years of preparation to set up, but now the great adventure was on, a glorious attempt to put the toothpaste back in the tube. It was established by Frankfurt Zoological Society, and it receives funding from organisations that include Save the Rhino, which is based in London. Ten more rhinos came to North Luangwa in 2006, five more in 2008, and another five two years later. That meant that by 2011, there were 25 rhinos in a well-watched and well-guarded area of 220 square kilometres. They were kept in protected circumstances, initially in a boma, or timber-walled enclosure.
Now the population is free-ranging, protected by the vigilance of people on the ground. Circumstances are not entirely natural – at least not yet – and the project will supply lucerne and sausage-fruit to animals in sub-optimal condition and to lactating females.
It’s not been straightforward. It never is. The process makes considerable demands on the animals involved. They’re not machines: the flight is difficult and the instant change of environment is traumatic. Such things can be hard for domestic animals, as horse-people will tell you. For wild animals, not selectively bred for docility, there will always be problems.
Some rhinos found it harder to make the change than others. Others possibly contracted trypanosomiasis, from the tsetse flies that favour the Valley and so make it a no-go area for cattle farmers – which is the reason the habitat has remained in such good shape for so long. Others died in fights. And in the traumatic year of 2011, six of the rhinos died: more than 15% of the population. “It was one of the hottest and driest years on record,” says Claire Lewis, technical adviser for the NLCP. “All wild animals suffer under such extreme conditions. It was hugely disappointing, but we had to be pragmatic about it.”
That is the problem with all small populations: there is no such thing as a small disaster. The project is still a fragile thing: it wouldn’t take much to lose the lot, at the cost of a good deal of money and great deal more hope. A mother of a three-month-old calf was found dead and the calf never seen again. Such things are hard to deal with for the people on the ground.
There was easy consolation to be found: six more calves were born. There is now a population of 34 black rhinos in North Luangwa National Park, and it’s time to think about expanding. At the time of writing, and in the entire history of the project, not a single rhino has been lost to poaching. This is a kind of miracle: and it comes from hard work, high motivation and considerable skills. The rhino trade has gone through the roof. Demand has escalated – and with it, the criminal trade.
In 2007 South Africa lost 13 rhinos to poachers; in 2014 the number was 1,215. …
The trade is much easier than it was 30-40 years ago, as the supply lines are infinitely shorter. There is a strong Chinese presence in much of sub-Saharan Africa these days, including Zambia. It’s a fair assumption that some of these are involved in illegal trading. So it seems that the North Luangwa rhino population is approaching critical mass just as the rhino-horn trade is more demanding than ever. It’s an illegal trade that’s right up there with gold and cocaine.
The NLCP has no option but to work on the prevention of poaching – 250 anti-poaching officers make 60 four-man 10-day patrols every month. The boots-on-the-ground policy makes sure the rhinos aren’t easy targets. Their work is backed up by regular flights, surveying both rhinos and intruders. In recent years, there has been much greater emphasis on intelligence-led operations. “We have to be very careful about showing our hand here,” Lewis says. “But we have invested more and more in the Intelligence and Investigations Unit run by ZAWA (Zambia Wildlife Authority) and they’ve had some success. We see this as our priority until the international cartels are broken down.” The price of living rhinos is eternal vigilance.
The next stage is the beginning of the abnegation of control. A population of 70 to 80 rhinos within a few years is feasible if the vigilance keeps on paying off. Patrolling will become less intensive – the rhinos would be using a much greater area and there isn’t the funding to put more people on the ground.
There is talk about reintroducing rhinos elsewhere in Zambia: the South Luangwa National Park, and on the other side of the country, in the Kafue National Park, though Ed Sayer, the chief technical adviser at NLCP, says: “If we can get through this period of severe threat, then those areas need to start setting up the necessary security now. It took us four years at a time when rhino poaching was much less intense.”
This is an extraordinary project. It’s much harder than flying in the face of nature, it’s flying in the face of human greed. But so far it’s working. It’s a miracle of hard work and good planning and the sort of dedication that, in an earlier age, would lead to canonisation. There have been rhinos back in the Luangwa Valley, rhinos back in Zambia for 12 years. And they’re still there. At the time of writing, anyway.