Tag Archives: CITES

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