Posts Tagged With: CITES

CITES Recap: the good, the bad and the ugly

The CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) 2008-2020 vision states
*they will be contributing to the conservation of wildlife as an integral part of the global ecosystem on which all life depends,
*as well as promoting transparency and wider involvement of civil society in the development of conservation policies and practices

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Are they following their vision?

Well, here’s a recap. The animals who reaped ‘benefits’ from increased protection are:

*Pangolins (trade was completely banned, and the most highly trafficked animals in the world were given highest protection status)

*African Gray Parrots (trade was completely outlawed)

*Sharks and Rays (Thirteen species of rays and Thresher and Silky sharks were given highest protection status)

In addition, proposals to grant legal trade in ivory and/or horn in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland were denied.

But the disheartening news was the denial of CITES to grant the highest level of protection to:

*Elephants 

*Rhinos 

*Lions 

An added issue for lions is the trade in captive bred lion parts remains legal. This perpetuates the Asian demand, and serves as an added incentive for South Africa to continue breeding farms. (Currently there are approximately 7,000 lions kept on 200 breeding farms throughout South Africa.)

seizures-of-lion-parts

© Data from UNEP-WCMC

In theory wild lion parts are not legally traded. Yet, there is no way to tell the difference between a wild lion bone and a captive lion bone. If money is to be made, bones will likely be obtained. Like a fenced in yard with surrounded by only  three sides, protection for Africa’s lion is incomplete, and proves worrisome to an even  faster decline.

In the end, the negligence to protect one species casts a shadow over the decision to protect others. It also casts doubt on the credibility and intentions of our CITES delegates.

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President Zuma at CITES. South Africa has been accused of “selling out” both elephants in lions in their votes against added protection. Photos by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth

 

There is no necessity in trading lion parts, wild or captive. To perpetuate a market and feed a false cultural perception is not only ethically questionable, but also sends a mixed message in the overall trade of wildlife products. Why is one species an acceptable “commodity” over another? And if a species becomes “captive bred”, is the door open for that species to be traded as well?

lion-farm-by-one-green-planet

Currently there are approximately 7,000 lions kept on 200 breeding farms throughout South Africa photo: One Green Planet

For Appendices ratings, just how low do the numbers have to get for us to act? The Northern White Rhinos are a perfect example of the error in waiting too long. There are 3 left. They were never afforded protection in time. Why isn’t their predicament enough; does history teach us nothing?

northern-white-by-brent-stirton-nat-geo

Only three Northern White Rhinos remain, all living in Kenya at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. photo: Brent Stirton/Nat Geo

(It is important to note that upgrading lions to the Appendix I status would ONLY have affected wild lions, and would not have afforded protection to their captive cousins.)

 

 

 

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China and Africa’s dirty little secret

In 2011, TIME magazine reported China had plans to establish a breeding colony of black and white rhinos, with the sole intention of harvesting their horn.

Their investigation found that a Chinese arms company – the Hawk Group –  had imported 60 rhino from South Africa to a park called Africa View in the Hainan Province of China. (This was a year AFTER China assured CITES they had no intention of farming rhinos.)

rhino farm aljazeera

         Rhino farm in China, photo-Al Jazeera

Previously, in 2009, a TRAFFIC report showed that South Africa and Zimbabwe had exported 141 live Rhinoceros to China over the previous nine years.

The “park” Africa View was touted as an African safari themed park. However, when a reporter visited in 2008 he found “No animals were in evidence, save 60 or so rhinos living in rows of concrete pens.”(which he photographed)

china rhino farm location

    The Sanya rhino farm location. photo: the Hub

The Sanya City Center is one of the prime farm locations. This area is also known to farm sea horses, bears, tigers, and deer.

rhino long horn by wwf

There is actually a patent pending for a rhino horn scraping device to utilize on the “farms”. photo: WWF

But they are not alone, as the Hangzhou Wild Animal World in eastern China,  has stated they have branched into pharmaceuticals and are involved in the manufacturing of traditional medicines. (the Hub)

It is this-the farming of keratin, essentially the same as “farming” humans for their fingernails, which truly makes a logical, educated person shake their heads and wonder what the world has come to.

 

 

 

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Understanding the “Appendix” for Rhinos

Getting serious about preserving rhinos entails international cooperation. The first step is to set a definitive standard which all countries can and will be responsible for.

rhino charge white

The way to do this is through CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). CITES is an international agreement between participating countries that sets the standard to regulate wildlife imports and exports among them.

The group meets once every 3 years in different countries to discuss varying proposals. This year, in September they will meet in South Africa.

Depending on their level of vulnerability, species are listed in three categories called Appendices.  Appendix I is the most vulnerable (threatened with extinction) and Appendix III is the least vulnerable.

Black rhinos are listed under Appendix I, but white rhinos are listed under Appendix II (for the exclusive purpose of allowing international trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations and hunting trophies).

only one predator United for wildlife

graphic: United for Wildlife

Conservationists are advocating for CITES to upgrade ALL rhinos to Appendix I.

What this will accomplish is to make it illegal to transport rhinos out of the country; ending the trade debate, as well as the majority of trophy hunting of rhinos.

As the rate of poaching continues unabated, it only seems logical to offer them the utmost protection on an international level. Please read and sign the following petition to ask the head of CITES to make this a priority.

this is our fight

 

 

 

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China’s one-year ban on ivory-what does it mean?

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photo: Tisha Wardlow/Fight for Rhinos

China’s State Forestry Administration said in a statement posted on its website that it would “temporarily prohibit” trophy imports until Oct. 15, 2016 and “suspend the acceptance of relevant administrative permits”.

Chinese media quoted the “relevant SFA official” as saying the temporary suspension was designed to give authorities time to evaluate its effectiveness, and possibly take further, more effective measures in future.

Are they feeling the pressure from the rest of the world? Are they serious about trying to make a difference? What good does a year do?

Pardon the skepticism, but let’s look at China’s track record.

“In 2002, China was the principal driver of the illegal trade and made very few seizures,” said Tom Milliken, director of eastern and southern African operations for Traffic, which monitors the trade and advises Cites.

In 2008 South Africa initiated a one-off sale of stored ivory. This brief sale, though legal, renewed interest and increased demand within the Chinese culture. Ivory prices skyrocketed, but the “legal supply” was exhausted. Immediately following this sale, according to CITES, “record levels of ivory were seized and sustained throughout the period 2009 to 2011.”

In January of 2014 and May of 2015 China destroyed ivory in a public crush. Yet China officially sanctions 36 ivory-carving workshops. Every year they assign a quota of 5 to 6 tons of “legal” ivory to the carving industry.

Counterproductive to say the least.

In fact according to the Environmental Investigation Agency, when you talk to the ivory dealers they say that amount of allocation only lasts one month. And so the other 11 months is illegal ivory. In an undercover investigation, the carvers admit “at least 90% of the ivory in China is illegal.”

ivory carving brent stirton

One of 36 ivory carving factories in China. photo: Brent Stirton

To think there will be no compromise to said “prohibition” within the year or that the government won’t deem the ban suddenly unnecessary is unrealistic.

But if there is a silver lining it is this: the very fact the  government feels compelled to alter a centuries old tradition by this display means they are feeling the world pressure. There is hope.

 

 

 

 

 

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Legal Trade: Is it worth the gamble?

It seems time to address the idea of legal horn trade again.  We understand the desire to try almost anything to save our rhinos. But it is our opinion that entertaining legal trade is not one of them.  There are far more reasons why legalizing rhino horn is a BAD idea.

#1 The number of rhinos left does NOT support the extreme demand for horn.

#2 We KNOW by flooding the market with something, it does not alleviate the demand, but on the contrary, increases it. Case and point-bears and tigers. China’s “farming” of them, has only expanded the market, in addition to leaving the animals in horrible health, with shortened lives (see The Legal Trade Myths: Debunked by Annamiticus)

#3 Members of CITES would need to approve the measure, which they have all spoken up on with a definite NO, including China.

not a chance

#4  Not all animals are easily farmed. Rhinos succumb to conditions in close quarters with one another, in which they are unaffected by in the wild. In addition, it is a costly endeavor, both for veterinary and security costs. Most individuals would not even be able to achieve this. (see: The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions)

#5 Certain Asian communities ONLY want wild rhino horn. The mindset is that it is more valued because it is harder to come by. Therefore farmed horn will be meaningless to them.

#6 Corruption is rampant not only in South Africa, but in so much having to do with rhino horn. IF trade were legalized, WHO is trusted to police the system? Even during the time ivory was allowed legally in a one-off sale, there was corruption and selling of illegal ivory. (see AWF Ivory)

#7 Asian attitudes on horn are changing, more awareness is taking hold. By making horn legal for a short time then pulling it back off the market, it stands to confuse consumers, re-fuel current demand, as well as possibly reaching a larger market because of the legality.

Hanoi airport

One-off sales have not worked before, there is no evidence to show it would work now. In fact, the opposite is true. If we are serious about stopping poaching, we must stop the demand. It must be loud, clear and forceful that trade and demand are NOT options.

At the very least the idea of legal trade is an enormous risk. It is an action where there is no turning back, and if the worst case scenarios are realized, the rhinos would be gone forever.

rhino crash running

 

 

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Mixed Messages are killing our elephants and rhinos

To crush or hoard?

That is the dilemma for African countries with ivory stockpiles. It’s a polarizing debate. Destruction eliminates any and all possibility at corruption, it will not find its way back on the market and it sends a clear message ivory NOT attached to the animal has no value.

But the other side believes saving and selling the ivory allows the money to be rolled back over into conservation efforts for the animals, and the communities.

The problem is that elephants and rhinos exist throughout the African continent, making the “product” available in multiple countries, and each country has its own stance on stockpiling. So while Mozambique destroys ivory, directly across the border in Zimbabwe the country stores it, awaiting an opportunity to sell. This creates mixed messages and a lack of unity.

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Seized horns and tusks on display in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Selling Ivory Funds Communities

Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa have a stock and sell take on ivory.

Namibia  Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has said destroying the ivory and horn goes against government policy. Instead the stock is auctioned off to other interested countries.

“We will get a lot of money and the proceeds will go to state coffers to alleviate poverty. Also, we feel it is not an effective deterrent in fighting poaching,” said Shifeta.

While Botswana states it is “out of the question” to sell rhino horn, they’ve just announced they will seek permission to sell their ivory stockpile after the 10 years moratorium with CITES has expired in 2018.

Good news for the rhinos, considering the fact that Botswana is key to future rhino populations with the current translocations taking place from Kruger National Park.  Not so great for elephants.

Overall,  an interesting proposition considering the country’s strong stance on anti-poaching, and the large stake in their wildlife. 90% of tourists in Botswana come for the wildlife.

bots tourism

The wildlife tourism industry is estimated to continue to grow throughout the coming years, making it an invaluable component to the economy. Graph: World Travel & Tourism Council

 

 Destroy Ivory, Stop Poaching

Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi and Ethiopia have all held public burns/crushes to destroy their stockpiles of horn and ivory.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesman Paul Udoto says the illegal ivory has no economic value to them, saying that “the selling is what has brought us to the state of poaching that we are in.”

kenya ivory burn bbc

Kenya burned 15 tonnes of ivory in March. President Kenyatta has vowed the entire stockpile will be burned this year. AFP photo

One-off Sales

So the hoard and sell leads to occasional one-off sales of a set amount for a limited time.

It is the belief of some that by CITES issuing these sales of horn or ivory, it fans the flames and results in a poaching spike, sending elephant and rhino populations into a tailspin. Afterall how can we  allow LEGAL one-off sales of a product AND simultaneously strive at reducing demand for the same product? Confusing to say the least.

The experts who work with elephants are in agreement.

cynthia moss 1It is very discouraging having to fight the battle to save elephants once again. The 1989 ban helped elephants to recover in most parts of Africa. Now even in Amboseli we’re losing elephants to ivory poachers for the first time in many years. The sale of any ivory–legal or not–is creating demand. No one needs ivory. It is a beautiful substance, but the only ones who need it are elephants.

– Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Elephant Research Project

ian redmond 2As long as ivory is valued as a commodity, every tusker is at risk from poachers, and only where anti-poaching efforts are sufficient will elephants survive. Anti-poaching costs money and lives. Banning the ivory trade has been the single-most effective and economical way to slow the loss of elephants across their whole range – not just where they can be protected by anti-poaching units. 

Ian Redmond, OBE Wildlife biologist and Ambassador for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species

So who do we listen to? The experts who work with these creatures, seeing their lives and deaths and the daily effects of poaching? Or political officials with a mixed bag of agendas?

If we must view elephants, rhinos or other animal in economic terms, then we must factor in tourism. Without wildlife, there is no tourism. Period.

To read more about the fight to ban ivory and save elephants: Born Free Foundation 

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Elephant herd on a dusty day in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Photo: Tisha Wardlow

 

 

 

 

 

 

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China is proof why Legal Trade in Rhino horn will fail

white rhino with baby by martin harvey

White Rhinos photo:Martin Harvey

Rhino poaching has already risen by 18%, and it’s only halfway through the year. Yet the South African DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs) continues their push of legal trade, unabated.

Aside from the usual and obvious arguments with legal trade, there are three definitive reasons why legal trade would fail:

CITES

CITES ( Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) representatives, including China’s have recommended against it. In fact, Wan Ziming, the head of China’s representing party at CITES, told Oxpeckers he was concerned that “the legitimate horn supply would be insufficient to meet the demand.”

Without the backing from CITES trade could not happen. “With almost every country having banned rhino horn, I have no idea of any country that would be willing to import rhino horn stockpile from South Africa,”said Ziming.

PAST ONE-OFF SALES

In 2008 South Africa initiated a one-off sale of stored ivory. This brief sale, though legal, renewed interest and increased demand within the Chinese culture. Ivory prices skyrocketed, but the “legal supply” was exhausted.

Immediately following this sale, according to CITES, “record levels of ivory were seized and sustained throughout the period 2009 to 2011.”

In addition to confusing consumers, the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) conducted a survey that clearly showed that illegal ivory can be laundered freely through the legal market. In fact illegal trade activity often took place in legal facilities.

If China cannot (or will not) govern the legal trade, there is no point.

TIGERS 

Twenty years ago China banned the sale and use of tiger bone. Yet tiger farms have cropped up all over the country for the sole purpose of killing and utilizing the animal parts. Instead of stepping up enforcement, China caved to public pressure and wildlife authorities issued licenses for “wineries” and “taxidermists”, stimulating the demand.

It costs as little as US $15 to kill a wild tiger compared to US $7,000 to farm an animal to maturity. This profit margin offers substantial incentives for poaching tigers in the wild. Since it is impossible to distinguish between farm-raised tigers and their wild counterparts from their bones and other parts, farming tigers for trade creates enormous difficulties for law enforcement, and provides opportunities to “launder” products made from wild tigers.**

The same is true for ivory and horn. It is virtually impossible to distinguish the difference between “legal” or “old” ivory and “illegal” or “poached” ivory.

Perhaps it’s time for South Africa government to stop counting cash from sales that won’t come to fruition, and go with Plan B: get serious about poaching through laws and political will.

horn trade cartoon

(**from the UN Chronicle)

 

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Attention Rhino Horn Users!

Each day at  least three rhino die for two reasons:
1. the Asian belief that horn cures medical ailments
2. as a status symbol in Vietnamese high society.

But, attention rhino horn users: at least 80% of the horn you purchase is fake, according to an Oxpeckers report.

Karl Ammann from Natural History Magazine stated “probably up to 90% of end consumers (of rhino horn)  would unknowingly purchase products made of water buffalo or other bovine horn.”

fake horn in jewelry shop in laos via karl ammann

A jewlery shop in Laos sells a fake rhino horn. Via: Karl Ammann

Horn is a hard commodity to come by. Rhino numbers are low, poaching risk is high. So horn smugglers have learned to make the money without the trouble.

Initially fake horns were made with an easily identifiable mould, made from buffalo horn , wood, or even  industrial plastic. But according to a report presented to CITES, the fake horns are now made with top quality resins and look so authentic that they are almost impossible to distinguish from the real thing.

As rhino numbers decline, and demand increases, the market will likely be saturated with faux horn, as criminals cash in on the diminishing rhinos. Unless users wake up and stop sniffing plastic and consuming wood and resin.

Fake rhino horns in museum

  These faux rhino horns fooled thieves , as they were stolen from the Natural History Museum at Tring, in Hertfordshire.

 

 

 

 

 

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CITES Recap on Rhino

Another CITES meeting has come and gone. So what does it mean for rhinos?

rhino in grass

In 2013 Vietnam and Mozambique were directed to strengthen their efforts on poaching and the trade of rhino horn.

Vietnam

Vietnam’s report to CITES, indicates they are taking steps to improve the situation, including initiating a rhinoceros horn demand reduction programme and tweaking their laws and regulations.

According to CITES,  “It is evident that Vietnam has managed to set in motion a political momentum to combat illegal wildlife trade, which has significantly contributed to tangible progress in its efforts to implement measures to combat illegal rhinoceros horn trade more effectively.”

Although encouraging, according to Save the Rhino, one area of concern is the limited custodial sentences for trafficking rhino horn, which they have acknowledged is an area for improvement. Heavy sentencing is a crucial deterrent to those involved in rhino horn trafficking.

confiscated horns

In March, Vietnam Deputy Minister Ha Cong Tuan stated they were considering destroying it’s storage of horns.

Mozambique

Mozambique, according to their own reports, had a notable increase in arrests and fines. They have also stated they have provided new equipment to field rangers, resettlement of villages close to the border with the Kruger National Park, established an “Intensive Protection Zone” along the length of the border with the Park, and increased cross border co-operation.

In addition they have signed the MOU (memorandum of understanding) with South Africa.

These statements beg further explanation. The villages “close to the border” are where the area known as “Poachers Alley” exists. And the protection zone- is it for protection of rhinos or poachers?

CITES is urging Mozambique to develop a national rhino horn action plan, with time-frames and milestones, and submit this to the CITES Secretariat by 8 August 2014.  According to reports, Europe and the US are ready to issue sanctions if necessary.

As the Environmental Investigation Agency has recently indicated in its petition to President Obama,  

“Available evidence indicates that Mozambican nationals constitute the highest number of foreign arrests for poaching in South Africa. Organized crime syndicates based in Mozambique are driving large-scale illegal trade in rhino horn and elephant ivory”

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Moz Minister of Tourism, Carvalho Muaria, signs the MOU with South Africa.

China

The CITES report does not indicate anything with China regarding rhino horn trade.

But China was allegedly, vehemently complaining about the necessity of reporting its status to CITES.  In addition for the first time, they admitted to using Tiger parts (well only some of them). A Chinese delegate said, “we don’t ban trade in tiger skins but we do ban trade in tiger bones”.

There was also no mention of Thailand or Hong Kong.

For more:  the CITES working group rhino report

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As The Body Count Builds, So Does the Bullshit

CITES is currently meeting again. Discussions on the fate of our rhinos are taking place as you’re reading this.

As poachers kill, and rangers fight, CITES is talking. While the slaughter continues, CITES is handing out certificates.

CITES certificates for explemplary enforcement

Nepal, China, Kenya and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force recognized for exemplary enforcement efforts.

Looking at the CITES agenda, some of the recommendations on the rhino are as follows:

*Mozambique should develop a national rhino horn action plan, with timeframes and milestones, and submit this to the Secreteriat by 8th August 2014.

*Mozambique is requested to submit a comprehensive report on progress in the implementation of its national rhino action plan, and on any other action taken… to be submitted to the Secretariat by 31st January 2015.

*Viet Nam is requested to provide a further comprehensive report on actions taken…including, in particular, by providing an update on the implementation of the Prime Minister’s Directive On strengthening the direction and implementation of measures for controlling and protecting endangered, rare and precious wild animals, and a detailed update on update on arrests, seizures, prosecutions and penalties for offences related to illegal rhinoceros horn possession and trade in Viet Nam…to be submitted to the Secretariat by 31st January 2015.

And what happens if they don’t receive these reports? Or if the reports are showing these countries are failing? Non-compliance will be met with….what?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

558 rhinos have been killed this year (OSCAP)

It is time to enact sanctions against the offending parties. Our wildlife deserves better than “talk”. It is time for action, swift and decisive action. There isn’t time for anything else.

Please sign: Lobby CITES to list the SA Southern White Rhino in Appendix one

CITES-Don’t legalize the sale of rhino horns worldwide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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