Posts Tagged With: economics

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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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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The commonality of Rangers and Poachers

Why do poachers poach? For the money of course. Desperation fuels the need. South Africa’s current unemployment rate sits at 25%, one of the highest in the world. While Mozambique’s is at 17%.

With Kruger National Park right in the middle, this makes for the most unfortunate situation for our rhinos. With just one horn, these men stand to better their families forever.

Rhino in Kruger via Giltedge Africa

Rhino in Kruger via Giltedge Africa

Youth unemployment is especially low; in 2013 it was as high as 63%. With underlying issues of a high drop-out rate in schools and a lack of experience and skills, these people have little chance of successfully finding a job.

The majority of South Africans who commit crimes, including poaching are married and unemployed who never complete standard 8 education. 

A number of government initiatives for education and unemployment have been issued in the last few years, but it seems too late for the current generation.

Ironically the reason poachers poach is the same reason rangers do what they do. For a source of income.

 As Ken Maggs, the head of the environmnetal crimes unit in SANParks explains about rangers,  “You’ll get some individuals that are really heart and soul conservationists, but generally speaking, it is a job, and jobs are not easy to come by,” says Maggs, “To have a job is really important.”

When asked, most poachers would choose a safer, more reliable method of bringing home a paycheck if there was an option.

 As one local poacher explained: “I don’t bear a grudge against the rangers. We’re all just trying to do the best for our family. If I was offered a job as a ranger, I wouldn’t have to poach.” But, the fact is that there just are not enough jobs to go around.

The reality is communities are fighting against one another in a war in which there are no winners. They’re trying to put food on the table for their families, while the wealthy do as they’ve always done; the Asians following a pointless trend of horn, the politicians turning a blind eye and basking in their own luxuries. And of course, an innocent species caught in middle.

President Zuma's home complete with amphitheater and pool.

President Zuma’s home complete with amphitheater and pool.

 

*Mediterranean Journal of Social Science:Crime and Unemployment in South Africa; Revisiting an Established Causality: Evidence from the Kwazulu Natal Province  N.G. Tshabalala, PhD 

*The human victims in the fight over rhino poaching in Africa by: Kenichi Serino

 

 

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Shades of Gray

rhino auction protest

Protesters at the Dallas Safari Club January 12th.

The Dallas Safari Club has auctioned off the life of a black rhino for $350,000.

In light of this recent atrocity, trophy hunting has come to the forefront of the social consciousness. The elitist hobby of killing for the thrill  has been going on since the 19th century, with nearly 18,000 participants a year.

Today, with the black rhino population in serious decline, each life is crucial to the species. It is a wonder that anyone could place higher value on their death, than their life. Endangered species are labeled as such to provide them extra levels of protection. Hunting them to “save” them flies in the face of logic.

Yet, some argue that hunting helps conservation. What do they mean by that?

Countries condone trophy hunting for a couple of reasons:
1. to make money – the money brought in from the hunting fee goes toward community conservation
2. to help control wildlife populations – keeping wildlife at reasonable numbers for the health of the species
3. to rid areas of “problem” animals –  i.e. elephants or cape buffalo that destroy crops

elephant huntedThe hunters pay fees, differing amounts depending on the size of the game.  Allegedly, these fees and the resulting meat are given to the communities.

With human/wildlife conflict a growing concern, many countries permit trophy hunting where only older males or repeated crop or cattle raiders are targeted. This provides a win-win for the village: the pest animal is removed and they receive monetary support.

Is it working? How much money is the community receiving? And how do they spend the money?

According to David Hulme, author and conservationist, its working well in terms of conservation.  Zimbabwe is having high conservation success, primarily because of the hunting community.

“Here in Zimbabwe hunters have been on the frontline of the poaching wars. They were at the forefront of massive rhino evacuation exercises, moving them from the Zambezi valley to safer areas. Pretty much the only rhino left in Zimbabwe are in the large conservancies, owned and operated by hunters.
Hunters here in Zim  also organized and carried out the first ever live adult elephant translocation exercise, moving whole herds from drought stricken Gonarezhou national park to the conservancies.”

The Save Conservancy in Zimbabwe, an area Hulme is quite familiar with, is one such example.

The conservancy used to be denuded cattle land and is now the largest privately owned conservation area in the world, at 1 million acres. In 1990 there were a handful of lions there, now there are hundreds, 20 odd rhino, now there are 130, 20 odd elephants now there are 1500, no buffalo now there are thousands.. “said Hulme.

big five james jean

Big Five by: James Jean

And what about the community? The Zimbabwe government is currently backing a project that allows trophy hunting of elephants, warthogs, giraffes, buffaloes and impalas. The project is well established, with the hunting fees being used to build a school and a clinic. This added income is especially helpful to the people during the dry season, when crops and livestock are not viable.

It’s hard to argue with the wildlife growth or community benefit. It’s been working in Zimbabwe for years. Yet what seems to be helpful in one area is a disaster in another.

South Africa remains the largest trophy hunting industry on the continent.  Frustratingly, they are one of only two countries to allow the legal hunting of rhinos. Of course with the rhino being endangered and this being home to the remaining 90% of them, this is a nightmare.

rhino awareness graffiti by Faktor

Rhino awareness graffiti in S.A. by: Faktor

Encouraging  legal hunting, while trying to crack down on illegal hunting (poaching) seems difficult, if not impossible. Rich foreigners with cash in hand stepping into impoverished communities make it all too easy for corruption to flourish.  In the end, it comes down to money. The communities need it, the hunters have it, and the animals are the product to be bought and sold.

________________________________________________

Thank you David Hulme for reminding me the world is more than black and white.
R.I.P.

david hulme 3

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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