Tag Archives: CITES

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

The Illegal Trade in Endangered Species and the Chinese Demand

Philippine authorities have seized large shipments of anteater and turtle parts in a sign that the illegal trade in the endangered animals is booming, officials said Wednesday (Jan. 4, 2012).  Fifty-eight pounds (26.5 kilograms) of Philippine pangolin, or anteater, about to be smuggled to Manila as goat meat was confiscated Wednesday at the Puerto Princesa city airport in southwestern Palawan province, said Alex Marcaida, an environment official.  On Monday, 209 pounds (95 kilograms) of pangolin scales and 200 pounds (90.5 kilograms) of scutes from endangered hawksbill and green turtles were seized at the same airport, he said. That shipment, which had a market value of nearly 1 million pesos ($23,000), was declared as dried fish.

Pangolin is a Chinese delicacy. Its scales are used in Chinese traditional medicine.  Turtle scutes — the plates that cover the shells — are used to decorate guitars and other products.  Marcaida said it’s possible traders are increasingly turning their attention to Palawan, home to many exotic wildlife, for pangolin meat because the animal’s population has been vanishing in other parts of Southeast Asia due to hunting and deforestation.   The International Union of Conservation of Nature said rising demand for pangolins, mostly from mainland China, and lax laws are wiping out the unique toothless anteaters from their forest habitat in Southeast Asia.  The animals are protected by laws in many Asian nations, and an international ban on their trade has been in effect since 2002. But these measures have had little impact on the illicit trade, the IUCN said.

The IUCN lists the Philippine pangolin, which is endemic to Palawan, as close to becoming a threatened species.  But Marcaida, who is from the government’s Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, said the Philippines considers the mammal a threatened species because of the continuing illegal trade.  He said the strict monitoring of trading in live pangolin may have prompted traders to try to smuggle them as meat and scales. A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of pangolin scales sells for 5,000 pesos ($114).  The same traders may be behind the two shipments, Marcaida said, adding that no arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.  The shipper of Wednesday’s haul left the cargo with an airport porter, while Monday’s shipment, which was bound for central Cebu city, went through a courier company, he said.

By TERESA CEROJANO, Philippines seizes meat of endangered anteaters,Associated Press,Jan. 4, 2012

Black Rhino Extinct: black markets and captive breeding programs

Africa’s western black rhino is now officially extinct according the latest review of animals and plants by the world’s largest conservation network.  The subspecies of the black rhino — which is classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — was last seen in western Africa in 2006.  The IUCN warns that other rhinos could follow saying Africa’s northern white rhino is “teetering on the brink of extinction” while Asia’s Javan rhino is “making its last stand” due to continued poaching and lack of conservation.   “In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented,” Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN species survival commission said in a statement.  “These measures must be strengthened now, specifically managing habitats in order to improve performance, preventing other rhinos from fading into extinction,” Stuart added.  The IUCN points to conservation efforts which have paid off for the southern white rhino subspecies which have seen populations rise from less than 100 at the end of the 19th century to an estimated wild population of 20,000 today.  Another success can be seen with the Przewalski’s Horse which was listed as “extinct in the wild” in 1996 but now, thanks to a captive breeding program, has an estimated population of 300.

The latest update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reviews more than 60,000 species, concluding that 25% of mammals on the list are at risk of extinction.  Many plants are also under threat, say the IUCN.  Populations of Chinese fir, a conifer which was once widespread throughout China and Vietnam, is being threatened by the expansion of intensive agriculture according to the IUCN.  A type of yew tree (taxus contorta) found in Asia which is used to produce Taxol (a chemotherapy drug) has been reclassified from “vulnerable” to “endangered” on the IUCN Red List, as has the Coco de Mer — a palm tree found in the Seychelles islands — which is at risk from fires and illegal harvesting of its kernels.  Recent studies of 79 tropical plants in the Indian Ocean archipelago revealed that more than three quarters of them were at risk of extinction.

Matthew Knight, Western black rhino declared extinct, CNN, Nov. 10, 2011

What is the best way to protect endangered species, hijacking CITES?

Reports that Zimbabwe’s National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority is sitting on 44 tonnes of ivory worth US$10 million, which it cannot sell are disturbing.  Once again we have a situation where an international body, in this case the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), is working against the interests of Zimbabwe.  We have a situation where Zimbabwe is being stopped from trading in its wildlife products to raise money to sustainably manage the wildlife for posterity.  For years now Zimbabwe has been lobbying, campaigning and begging that its fellow members in Cites support its bid to trade in ivory in a controlled and accountable manner.  Zimbabwe’s wildlife management programme is excellent despite operating with limited resources. We have kept our wildlife populations high, including the endangered species like the rhino.  The war against poachers has been sustained for the past three decades of our independence.

But our elephant population is clearly too high and is a danger to the environment. It is estimated that the population is over 100 000 against a holding capacity that is half of that.  The only way to protect the environment and future elephant populations, as well as other wildlife, is to periodically cull the elephants and keep the population at manageable levels.

Yet we have countries that do not have elephant populations of their own seeking to stop Zimbabwe from economically benefiting from its wildlife.  The US$10 million that could be realised from selling the ivory stockpiled by the Parks authorities could go a long way in ensuring that the infrastructure and equipment in our national parks is maintained at levels that produce efficiency in wildlife management and conservation programmes. Apart from Kenya, which has genuine concerns about allowing trade in ivory given that it also has high elephant populations which could be poached, the other countries don’t stand to realise much economic value from their low elephant populations.  But again Kenya gets a lot of donor funding to keep its wildlife programmes running. It is being rewarded for supporting the Western view of absolute protection instead of sustainable and profitable use.  Zimbabwe is under economic sanctions, which means less money will find its way into wildlife preservation from the national budget.  If the same forces that oppose its desire to trade in ivory are not putting money into wildlifthen they are working towards the collapse of our wildlife programmes.

An example cited by Parks director-general Vitalis Chadenga is that of the Great Limpopo Trans-Frontier Park, where other countries are getting assistance and Zimbabwe is being left out.  If Zimbabwe was allowed to off-load at least 10 tonnes a year, it would not have the kind of stockpile it now has. But it last had a Cites-approved sale in 2008 when only five tonnes where sold to China and Japan.

The point is that Zimbabwe will not stop culling elephants because this is a necessary process in managing its wildlife environment. So why not allow it to raise money from wildlife products to maintain the same environment.  What is unfortunate is that the 175-member Cites has been hijacked by Western protectionist and animal welfare groups, who could not conserve wildlife in their own countries but now want to superintend over ours.  Zimbabwe has proved through the Campfire programme that if communities are allowed to derive economic benefits from wildlife they will preserve it.

Zimbabwe: Ivory Stockpile – Cites Should Let us Hold Controlled Sales, AllAfrica.com, Oct. 13, 2011

Modern Poaching Crisis

Illegal Ivory Trade

Illicit Markets

 

 

The Dirty Fight for the Rhino

They used to rely on snares, poison and shotguns to kill rhinos for their horns. Now international crime syndicates are arming poachers with night-vision goggles and AK-47 assault rifles as the price for rhino horn surpasses gold.  When the crackle of gunfire signals the death of yet another rhino, radios squawk to life here in South Africa’s flagship Kruger National Park and soldiers ready for pre-dawn patrols.  “They’ve become very aggressive,” Ken Maggs, head of the South African government environmental crime investigation unit, said of the poachers. “They leave notes for us written in the sand, warnings. That indicates it is an escalating issue … They are coming in prepared to fight.”

The government of South Africa, home to 90 percent of the rhinos left on the continent, is fighting back. Since more than 140 troops were deployed in April, the number of rhinos killed in Kruger has dropped from 40 in March and 30 in April to 15 in May and just two in June. Fifteen alleged poachers also have been killed this year, and nine suspects wounded in gunfights.

Still, rhino carcasses with mutilated faces are becoming a common sight in African wildlife parks. The hacked-off horns are destined to be smuggled to China and Vietnam, where traditional medicine practitioners grind them up for sale as alleged cures for everything from fevers to arthritis and cancer.  The horns have become so valuable that thieves this year started stealing rhino exhibits in European museums. The going rate is up to $44,000 a pound (60,000 pounds a kilogram) according to the London Metropolitan Police department.  Even in the United States, police in Denver have arrested members of an Irish syndicate trying to smuggle rhino horn.  “Aside from Central and South America, every region of the world appears to be affected by criminals who are fraudulently acquiring rhinoceros horns,” warned John M. Sellar, enforcement chief of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. “Government officials are being corrupted. Money-laundering is taking place,” he said…..

Conservationists have failed to persuade traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and consumers that rhino horn has no medicinal value. Some link the upsurge in rhino poaching to a 2007  Chinese government decision to promote traditional medicine as alternative medicine grows increasingly popular in the West as well. Until then, South Africa was losing about 10 rhinos a year to poachers.

Trophy hunting in South Africa is compounding the problem. More than 100 white rhinos were killed under permit here last year. The Department of Environment did not respond to questions about permits issued this year.  So tempting are the rewards that veterinarians and game ranchers – the very people supposedly dedicated to conserving wildlife – have been arrested in recent months for alleged involvement in the rhino horn trade….

Making Horn Trade Legal:  “If farmers were making a profit out of rhinos they would have the will to guard them against poachers,” said rancher John Hume, owner of the largest number of privately held rhino in the world. “Instead, they are siding with the poachers because a rhino is worth more dead than alive.”  He said some farmers “just contract with an illegal dealer, shoot the rhino, bury the body, take the horn. It pays him to kill it.”

Excerpts from, Michelle Faul , Troops fight rhino poachers, http://www.iol.co.za, July 23, 2011