Friday, April 3, 2009

Furadan sales stopped in much of Africa

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Television can have a powerful effect, especially when it comes to wildlife. The CBS program 60 minutes about lion poisoning in Kenya that aired on the 30th of March produced a powerful response.

From the Wildlife Direct blog comes good news. An official announcement from FMC, the company that manufactures the insecticide, has stated that all sales of Furadan to Kenya will be stopped, that a buy-back program will be started, and that conservationists will be contacted to find out more about lion poisonings.

While this is undoubtedly good news, it may not go far enough, if a call from the CEO of FMC, Mr. William G. Walter is accurately reported. In a letter to the Wildlife Direct team Dr. Richard Leakey sates that:
They (FMC) are discontinuing supply
to all African countries where there are predators including South Africa, all of Eastern Africa. He has directed
Juanaco in Kenya and other distributors in Tanzania to buy back all stocks held by retailers and he believes
that within 8 weeks it will be done with.

Given the size of the problem, and the freedom with which commodities move in Africa, I hope that the ban does more than control Furadan sales in South and East Africa. If not, the chemical will not disappear, but simply go underground.

The situation in Kenya has been somewhat farcical. Paula, the Executive Director of Wildlife Direct states in her message of

"the authorities here refuse to take responsibility, the Kenya Wildlife Service blames the agrochemical association and agricultural minsitry, the ministries blame the people for illegal ‘mis-use’ of the pesticide while the PCPB, the Pesticide Control and Products Board deny that the pesticide is even being misused despite all our evidence"

I have written to the media officer at FMC, and here is part of my letter.

Dear Mr. Fitzwater
I was delighted to read on the blog of the very strong action that you are taking on the Furadan issue in Kenya.

I have posted a few Furadan accounts in my own blog (I am a wildlife veterinarian who works extensively in Africa) and most recently have related accounts of deliberate bird poisonings, in one case for the acquisition of meat, the other for crop protection from red-billed queleas.

I have also published two books about wildlife, the most recent titled The Trouble With Lions: A Glasgow Vet in Africa. (Here I quote the opening para of my book, which I did a couple of blogs ago)

Then back to the letter to Mr. Fitzwater:
As you will no doubt have guessed, the poisoning was with Furadan, which is just as readily available in Uganda as it has been in Kenya. The lions in QEP were not the only victims, a large number of vultures also died and were found within a few metres of the carcasses. In the epilogue to The Trouble WIth Lions I also relate the destruction of an entire clan of hyaenas from this deadly poison. Dr. Luke Hunter of the Wildlife Conservation Society also reported lion, hyaena, bird and other casualties in Uganda .

I do hope that your Kenya-based ban will not only have a very rapid effect, but will extend across the continent, as the threat to wildlife in general from this compound is considerable.

I will keep an eye on the progress of your ban, and in my capacity as a storyteller I will add the good news of your action to the accounts of poisonings.

I intend to post this letter on my blog.

Yours sincerely,

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