Tag Archives: CITES

The Mad Killing Spree: Rhinos in South Africa 2017

white rhinos image from wikipedia

According to news reports,  there appeared to be no letting up in the “relentless rhino poaching onslaught” in South Africa… The country…was on track to lose more than a thousand rhinos for the fifth straight year.
Unofficial kill figures show the country has lost 483 rhinos to poachers in the first five and a half months of 2017.

Excerpts from Poachers kill six rhino in one night in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, DefenceWeb, July 5, 2017

Drugs, Snakes and Skins: illegal wildlife trafficking

how-to-have-a-python-leather-handbag

One of the most serious environmental crimes, wildlife trafficking encompasses all stages in the supply chain, from taking wild fauna from its habitat, to trading, importing, exporting, processing, possessing, obtaining and consuming of these species.  Driven by an extraordinary low-risk/high-profit ratio, the trafficking of endangered species is estimated to generate over EUR 4.4 billion in profits globally per year (2011).

Because the global demand for such commodities is high, whether as luxury items or for use in traditional medicine, this illicit trade attracts transnational organised crime networks.

While in its character and its scale this trade resembles other types of global criminal activities, such as trafficking in drugs, human beings, firearms and counterfeit goods, it benefits nonetheless from lower levels of awareness, lower risks of detection and lower sanction levels.
The EU is a major transit point for the illegal trade in wildlife, in particular between Africa and Asia. In 2013, 1468 seizures (more than half with an international dimension) were reported by 15 EU countries. The main types of commodities seized were medicines (derived from both plants and animals), ivory, corals and live reptiles. The European fashion industry accounts for 96% of the trade in python skins…

In 2015 Europol supported Operation COBRA III, the largest-ever coordinated international law-enforcement operation targeting the illegal trade in endangered species. The operation recovered a huge amount of wildlife contraband, including over 12 tonnes of elephant ivory and at least 119 rhino horns.

Excerpt from ILLICIT TRAFFICKING IN ENDANGERED ANIMAL SPECIES, Europol Press Release, Nov. 2016

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

 

Going Strong: the 10 billion dollar market for illegal wildlife

dead sea turtles on Chinese ship

At $10 billion a year, illegal wildlife makes up the world’s fifth-largest illicit market behind drugs, counterfeit products, trafficked people and smuggled oil. An intergovernmental conference in Geneva from July 7th-11th, 2014 revealed the special worries about ivory smuggling in Thailand, rhino-horn trafficking through Mozambique and trade in tiger parts across South and South-East Asia.

According to TRAFFIC, a lobby group, the street value of rhino horn is $60,000 per kilo—more than the price of gold. Gram for gram, bear-bile flakes or powder sell in Japan [slightly less] than cocaine in Asia. Booming demand from Asia’s growing middle classes is pushing some species close to extinction. As supply dwindles, prices rocket, which tempts criminal gangs to sink their claws in even further.

Elephant ivory is valued for aesthetic reasons. Demand for rhinoceros horns, the paws and bile of Asiatic black bears and sun bears, tiger bones and penises, and deer musk, is stimulated by the healing powers ascribed to them in traditional Chinese medicine. Rhino-horn shavings boiled in water are said to cool and to cure headaches; the brew is akin to fingernail clippings in water (both are mainly keratin, an indigestible protein). Bear bile does help with gallbladder and liver problems—but no more than the synthetic version of ursodeoxycholic acid, its main component.

In February 42 countries, including China and Japan, and the European Union signed a declaration against trade in illegal wildlife products. Chinese law punishes the purchase or consumption of endangered species with up to ten years in jail. But in May, when Philippine forces seized a Chinese vessel carrying sea turtles, giant clamshells and live sharks off the disputed Half Moon Shoal, China expressed outrage at the “provocative action”—not the illegal cargo.

The illegal trade in wild-animal products: Bitter pills, Economist, July 19, 2014, at 54

Drones and the Rhino: the militarization of conservation

SAAF-15_Squadron-BK117.  Image from wikipedia

Rhino poaching has now been evaluated to a priority crime in South Africa…  This was confirmed by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa ahead of the 16th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Thailand. The top-level meeting of the world’s major environmental bodies started in Thailand today and runs until March 14.

With 128 rhino already killed by poachers this year, well up from the 80 for the corresponding period last year, the National Joint Operations Centre, co-ordinated by the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations, has moved rhino poaching up on its priority rating list.  Molewa also said Cabinet had emphasised the need for more technology, specifically in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to be pushed the way of rhino anti-poaching forces. These are currently comprised mainly of SANParks rangers supported by elements of the SA National Defence Force as well as police, customs and excise inspectors from SA Revenue Services and any number of NGOs.

SANDF elements are first and foremost deployed for border protection in the park but where manpower allows, assist rangers in anti-poaching operations. The SA Air Force has also, again where resources allow, made assets available for anti-poaching operations. This has seen a pair of BK-117s of 15 Squadron C Flight in Kruger to assist with aerial surveillance.

Leading South African private sector defence industry conglomerate, the Paramount Group, has also committed itself to the rhino anti-poaching effort. It has made a Seabird Aviation Seeker light observation aircraft available to Kruger via the Ichikowitz Family Foundation. The additional eye in the sky is a boost to Kruger’s own fleet of helicopters, light observation and fixed wing aircraft.The SANParks flagship late last year announced a more militaristic approach to stopping rhino poachers. This saw retired SA Army major general Johan Jooste join the national conservation organisation’s anti-poaching set-up as its head.

Excerpts, Rhino poaching now a priority crime, DefenceWeb, Mar. 4, 2013

Inuit against the Greens: polar bears and climate change

polar bear skins. image from wikipedia

The Inuit see the animal as a fierce predator, a cultural symbol and a valuable source of food, warmth and money in a part of the world where all three are in short supply.Yet to animal-welfare and green groups in warmer places the polar bears are both an icon in the fight against climate change and an animal under threat of extinction. The melting of the Arctic’s ice cap, which the bears use as a hunting platform, means the estimated population of between 20,000 and 25,000 will decline sharply, they say. They see hunting the bears as an anachronism and want international trade in bear pelts and parts, already severely restricted, completely banned.

These opposing views are set to clash at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an intergovernmental agreement, between March 3rd and 14th in Bangkok. Having failed at the previous meeting of CITES in 2010, the United States is again leading a move to switch the polar bear from Appendix II of the convention to Appendix I, which would ban trade in all but “exceptional” circumstances. The American proposal is backed by Russia but opposed by Canada, Norway, Denmark (which represents Greenland) and the CITES secretariat.

The debate promises to be emotional. What it lacks are facts. The Americans acknowledge that only eight of the 19 known groups of polar bears have been surveyed since 2000. Of the remaining 11, four have never been surveyed. The submission relies on a controversial forecast undertaken for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007 that suggests the decline in sea ice will lead to the disappearance of two-thirds of the world’s polar bears by 2050.  Should the United States obtain the two-thirds majority needed to change the bear’s status, it will be a blow to the Inuit. Their trade in walrus tusks and narwhal horns has dried up because of curbs on sales of ivory designed largely to protect elephants. The trade in seal pelts and meat was curtailed by a 2009 import ban by the European Union, though this granted a limited exemption to indigenous peoples.

In Canada polar bears are hunted under annual quotas set by territorial governments. The Inuit trade bear pelts, claws and teeth, and sell some of the quota to trophy hunters, who employ local guides and buy local supplies…..

Countries which want to become observers at the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental body, will be reluctant to vote against Canada, Norway and Denmark on the issue. Canada takes over as chairman of the council in May. Still, it will take resolve to stand up to the United States, also a council member, and the array of animal-welfare and environmental groups backing its position.

The Inuit also argue that if the problem is climate change, to ban trade in polar bears is to attack the symptom rather than the cause. That was the argument of the European Union’s environment commissioner, Janez Potocnik, when the European Parliament debated the issue earlier this month. But the MEPs still voted in support of the American position.

Canada’s Inuit: Polar-bear politics, Economist, Feb. 23, at 36

Another War to Save the Rhino

Black Rhino.  Image from wikipedia

Retired SA Army Major General Johan Jooste was this week unveiled as the man who will be in overall command of the Kruger national park’s (located in South Africa) efforts to for once and all stop rhino poaching.  So far this year 381 rhino have been killed by poachers in Kruger, well over half the national loss of 618.  Jooste… was his usual straightforward self when commenting on the new task.  “I am no messiah. What I am is a proven leader as well as a team player…The battle lines have been drawn and now the team and I are going to work hard to push back poachers.  It is a fact that South Africa as a sovereign country is under attack by armed foreign nationals. This can be seen as a declaration of war. We are going to take the war to these bandits and we aim to win it,” the highly decorated and respected retired two-star general said in Skukuza.  SANParks chief executive Dr David Mabunda who is on record as saying the country was engaged in “a low intensity war” against poachers, said the arrival of Jooste in Kruger was another indication of the high priority the national conservation agency was giving to the scourge of rhino poaching.  “We are fully aware we will never be able to put a ranger behind every rhino. That’s why we are developing modern and innovative ways of protecting rhino against a well-organised onslaught.”

Jooste’s appointment is in line with SANParks multi-pronged approach to rhino poaching including a single operations command. He brings with him experience in military intelligence, border and area protection as well as contemporary knowledge of modern military technology, its use and integration at operational level as well as conservation knowledge.

Kim Helfric, War on rhino poaching intensifies as general joins the fray, The NewAge, Dec. 13, 2012