Tag Archives: African elephant

Lion Bones and Fishhook Cactus: CITES at 2016

fishhookn cactus. image from wikipedia

The triennial  summit of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) closed on October 4, 2016 ….

The Johannesburg conference was marked by agreement on measures to improve sustainable trade in a number of species, including the queen conch, humphead wrasse, sharks, snakes and African wild dog as well as a large range of timber species, such as bubinga and rosewoods, and the African cherry and agarwood.

Parties also recognized several conservation success stories, including that of the Cape mountain zebra, several species of crocodiles and the wood bison, which were all by consensus downlisted from Appendix I under CITES to Appendix II in recognition of their improved conservation status.

There was fresh impetus to further safeguard threatened wild animals and plants with added protection for the African grey parrot, Barbary Macaque, Blaine’s fishhook cactus, elephant, pangolin and saiga antelope; and well-targeted enforcement measures agreed to combat illegal trade for specific species. These included the African grey parrot, African lion, cheetah, helmeted hornbill, pangolin, rhino and totoaba.

CoP17 saw a number of firsts, including, the first ever:

Resolution on corruption and wildlife crime;
Decisions on cybercrime and wildlife crime;
Resolution on strategies to reduce the demand for illegally traded wildlife,
Resolutions affecting the helmeted hornbill and snakes;
Decisions on targeting the illegal fishing of and trade in totoaba, and the related illegal killing of the vaquita;

Some other notable outcomes include:

The rejection of a Decision-Making Mechanism (DMM) for a future trade in ivory;
An agreement to close domestic markets in ivory where they contribute to poaching or illegal trade;
The rejection of all proposals to change the protection of Southern African elephant populations;
Stricter monitoring and regulation of hunting trophies to bring them under trade control measures, including recommending conservation benefits and incentives for people to conserve wildlife;
A decision to conduct a study to improve knowledge on regulation of trade in the European eel, and to look more broadly at all Anguilla eels;
An agreement to undertake specific work on marine turtles to understand the impact of international trade on their conservation status;
The introduction of a captive breeding compliance process to check the authenticity of specimens described as captive bred;
Acceptance of the National Ivory Action Plans as a tool for those Parties mostly affected by illegal trade in ivory, including source, transit and destination countries, to build their capacity in addressing illegal trade and ensuring compliance with the commitments they make under the plans;
A decision to undertake studies in legal and illegal trade in lion bones and other parts and derivatives;
A request to review all species listed on Appendix I to identify what measures are needed to improve their conservation status;
Improvements to processes to ensure that wildlife trade is sustainable, legal and traceable; and
Agreements on process to improve traceability and identification of CITES-listed species.

Excerpts from PRESS RELEASE, Largest ever World Wildlife Conference hailed as a ‘game changer, CITES, Oct. 4, 2016

 

This Land is their Land: money, minerals and the dead elephants

satellite image of Afirca 1994. image from wikipedia

GOVERNMENT DEFENCE ANTI-CORRUPTION INDEX, by Transparency International [Excerpts below]

• In Ethiopia, a sizable conglomerate, the Federal Metal and Engineering Corporation (METEC), grew out of the defence industry complex. METEC is now the biggest, richest, and most influential enterprise in the country and has started to acquire private property and hotels. METEC is overseen by a board headed by Defence Minister Siraj Fergessa, but METEC’s financial and budgetary links with the military aren’t clear, and there is no evidence that annual reports have ever been made available to the public.
• In Sudan 160 registered companies are linked, owned, or controlled by the military, security, and police services …
• The Eritrean military state puts the entire population to work. Military conscripts are a source of cheap labour and even the Eritrean diaspora is coerced into contributing 2% of their income to the Eritrean Defence Forces. Eritrean defence and security institutions have beneficial ownership of many key businesses in Eritrea – in agriculture, forestry, fishing, animal husbandry, mining and minerals, industry and manufacturing, energy, services, tourism, banking and finance, and there is no transparency regarding the details of their operations and finances… • In Ghana, the armed forces started operating their own bank in 2013. No audits or
nannual reports appear to be publicly available…
In 29 of the countries surveyed, defence institutions have controlling or financial interest in businesses associated with the country’s natural resource exploitation that face little to
no scrutiny.
• In Rwanda,…  Tin and tantalum smuggled into Rwanda are allegedly aundered through the country’s domestic tagging system and exported as ‘clean’ Rwandan material. The government has denied its involvement, but evidence suggests it is complicit.
In Equatorial Guinea, there are reports that government officials, including defence and security officials, have diverted revenues obtained from the country’s natural resources, including land and hydrocarbon, into private accounts through offshore shell corporations. Teodorin Nguema Obiang, the president’s son and Vice-President for Defence and National Security, has been accused of stealing $300 million (US) of the country’s oil and gas wealth through corruption and money laundering.
• In Cameroon, there is also evidence of military involvement in the illegal exploitation of the water and forest sectors including the sale of small titles to companies on an industrial scale, and through allowing the Chinese to engage in illegal commercial fishing….
• In Algeria, there are significant links between the military and oil and gas industry; with billions of oil dollars at the heart of the permanent clashes between the different clans in the “pouvoir” – the opaque military and political collective which controls the country….
In many cases, military personnel engage in illicit commercial operations for their private
gain….• In Cameroon, military personnel have been involved in money laundering through the operation of casinos and illegal gaming houses, and there is evidence that the Cameroonian armed forces have been used to provide security for private oil companies.
• There are reports of Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) and other security officials being involved in the highly lucrative trade of elephant tusks. Reports have also emerged of entire military convoys escorting illegal poachers. If caught, rather than face prosecution, military officers are transferred to new positions.

Who Slaughters the Elephants?

burning illegal ivory

Across Africa the illegal slaughter of elephants is accelerating at such a pace—recent estimates put the number killed at 100,000 in just three years—that it threatens to exterminate whole populations. The worst of this butchery takes place in Tanzania, the biggest source of illegal ivory.

Every third poached elephant in Africa dies on the watch of Tanzania’s president, Jakaya Kikwete…One contributing factor may be the government’s failure to investigate and if necessary prosecute high-level offenders. Some of these are said to be closely connected to the ruling Party of the Revolution (CCM), which has dominated the politics of Tanzania since the country’s mainland became independent.  State corruption runs through Tanzania’s illegal ivory trade from savannah to sea. At the bottom of the poaching networks are hired helpers who are often recruited from the armed forces. If caught, officers are transferred to new posts rather than fired. Some allege that soldiers rent out guns to poachers….

Police have even been known to escort convoys of illicit ivory….Other armed forces and governments are also said to be involved. A report by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a non-profit group in London, documents involvement in the illegal ivory trade by Chinese government and military officials. Yet it is allegations of corruption closer to the top of the Tanzanian ruling party that are of the greatest concern

Tanzania’s dwindling elephants: Big game poachers, Economist, Nov. 8, 2014, at 53

To stop Poachers from Killing Elephants, Stop Consumers from Buying Ivory

Almost 24 tonnes of illegally harvested ivory were seized by investigators in 2011—the largest haul since records began in 1990 and more than twice the amount in 2010. Traffic, a wildlife watchdog, reckons around 2,500 elephants must have died to produce so much ivory. This year could be worse. More than 200 elephants were killed in a single state of Cameroon in the first six weeks of 2012.  This threatens to return African elephants to the crisis times of the 1970s and 1980s, when poaching was rampant and extinction loomed for many populations. This led to an ivory trade ban, in 1989, and in turn to a collapse in demand for ivory. Elephant populations have since recovered. Yet the effects of the ban seem to be wearing thin, especially in east, west and central Africa, where wildlife protection is generally weak and the poaching heaviest.

Illegally gathered ivory typically leaves Africa from Kenya or Tanzania in shipping containers. It often passes through Malaysia, where forged papers disguise its origins. Most is then dispatched to China or Japan. Some tusks also pass through the bazaars of Cairo, where Chinese traders are the biggest buyers  China is the biggest recipient of poached African ivory; and the country’s demand for the stuff is surging. A study of two Chinese cities for Traffic, by Esmond Martin and Lucy Vigne, concluded that since 2004 the number of ivory items for sale there had grown by 50%.

Some ivory can be traded legally, for example when the elephant that grew it died of natural causes or was shot to protect people or crops. Some African countries have stocks that predate the ban, which they can also sell. Such legal ivory sells for around $900 a kilogram in China’s wholesale market, with the average tusk weighing between five and nine kilograms. A cheaper sort comes from extinct woolly mammoths, which are periodically excavated from Siberia’s tundra.

In southern Africa, where there is relatively little poaching, support for lifting the trade ban is strong. But east African countries, especially Kenya, which led the original campaign for it, say this would increase demand for ivory, which would often be met by poaching—given how easy it is to pass off illegal ivory as the legal kind. The collapse in demand for ivory that followed the trade ban supports that argument. So does the recent research by Mr Martin and Ms Vigne. Though legal ivory in China’s markets is meant to be marked as such, they found this was true of less than half the ivory for sale in Guangzhou in January 2011. Only a tenth of shops selling ivory had the necessary licenses.

Yet if the trade ban is losing its force, what will save the elephants? Iain Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of Save the Elephants, an advocacy group, says educating Chinese shoppers about the bloody origins of their purchase would help. There is currently an advertising campaign in China to do so. It features Chinese celebrities, like Yao Ming, a basketball star, and Ding Junhui, a snooker player, urging people not to buy products from endangered species. “When the buying stops,” they say, “the killing can too.”

Poaching: Black ivory, Economist, Mar. 20, 2012, at 73

Illegal Wildlife Trade: how China can stop the poaching of elephants

The ivory may have been among the large shipment just uncovered at the main airport of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. The tusks of 58 elephants, worth $1.3m, were in metal boxes. The shipment was bound for Nigeria, purportedly from two embassies in Nairobi that do not exist. At the same time, in Vietnam, authorities found $600,000 of tusks hidden in a cargo of rubber from Tanzania. Thai customs last month spotted $3.3m-worth of tusks under a pile of frozen fish.

The quest for ivory charms in China and Vietnam makes elephant poaching lucrative in eastern and central Africa. Ivory fetches up to $1,200 a kilo in Asia, says the WWF, a wildlife lobby. That encourages middlemen. Many Chinese citizens in several African airports have been arrested this year for smuggling ivory. Detectives suspect many more get through with a few kilos and a bribe. Tree cover, armed groups, and open borders make elephants as vulnerable as ever. The herds of central Africa are being particularly hard hit. In Chad alone, at least 30 elephants are known to have been poached last month. Some conservationists think there is no future for a truly wild and unprotected elephant.

Yet, taken as a whole, African elephants have increased from a low of 500,000 in the 1980s to more than 600,000 today. The Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature, an environmental lobby, which publishes a “red list” of the world’s most endangered species, says elephants in southern Africa are increasing by 4% a year. Their fecundity is offsetting losses in central and west Africa. Indeed, the main threat in Botswana, southern Mozambique, parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe is arguably not poaching but overpopulation. Boffins are pondering birth control for elephants, including even vasectomies. There are calls for culling or allowing trophy hunting under rigorous controls. Southern African countries are keen to see the lifting of the worldwide ban on the ivory trade.

But east and central African countries and well-financed animal-rights groups fiercely oppose this. They say an earlier decision to let southern African countries sell some of their ivory stockpile caused poaching to soar elsewhere: those handling the ivory often provide false labels of origin. In the end, as the Chinese get richer, it is probably only China itself that can determine the fate of Africa’s elephants. Earlier this month, two Chinese engineers were arrested in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital, with eight pairs of tusks. After producing diplomatic passports, they were freed. The fate of the tusks is unknown. That of the elephants isn’t.

Excerpt, Africa’s elephants: To cosset or to cull?, Economist, May 21, at 56

Illegal Ivory Trade Persists Despite the Ban

For many years Southeast Asia had a bountiful supply of elephants to satisfy Thailand’s ivory traffickers, but the decimation of the species has seen them turn to Africa for their plunder.  The more than 1,600 tusks seized since the beginning of 2009 by Thai customs indicate that more than 800 elephants were slaughtered to feed a murky and voracious international market.

“Thailand is still ranked number one” in the ivory traffic rankings, said Chris Shepherd, deputy manager for Southeast Asia at wildlife protection group Traffic.  International trade in ivory was banned in 1989, but seizures have risen dramatically in the past five years.  Experts say the trade is passing through organised networks often linked to the smuggling of rare animals from Mozambique, Tanzania or Kenya.  “When you order ivory for decoration, one elephant will be killed — the killer is demand,” said Lieutenant Colonel Adtapon Sudsai, investigation chief at the Natural Resource and Environment Crime Suppression Department…Benefiting from its location, Thailand exports much of the ivory, rough or carved, to China — where it is traditionally used in medicinal powders — and Japan. But some also ends up in the United States and Europe.

Critics say the authorities need to take tougher action…Experts are pessimistic about justice being done, with a lack of communication between Bangkok and relevant African authorities and inadequate training of the customs and police officers.  When financial means exists, they are on the wrong side of the battle, experts say, with much remaining to be done against corruption…The local press recently reported on the disappearance of ivory stocks in a customs warehouse, an incident that does not appear isolated…

Amelie Bottollier-Depois, African elephants victims of Thai trafficking, Agence France Presse, Mar. 11, 2011