Posts Tagged With: President Obama

Are Americans Grasping the Plight of the Rhino?

In a recent poll by the Center for Biological Diversity:

61 percent of Americans said they are concerned about the rate that wildlife are disappearing.

2 out of 3 Americans believe Congress should strengthen, or not make any changes to the Endangered Species Act.

Half of those polled think the country is doing too little to protect imperiled plants and animals, and that too many species are being pushed to the brink of extinction.

Much of this recent attitude has to be credited to President Obama’s executive order to combat wildlife trafficking.

Timeline in Rhino & Elephant Crisis Awareness in the US

  • May 2013- Miss USA, South African born Nana Meriwether, advocates for the plight of the rhino.
  • Jul 2013- President Obama announced the Executive Order to combat wildlife trafficking
  • Sept 2013-March for Elephants released the Elephant in Times Square billboard, educating thousands of Americans on the poaching crisis.
  • Sept 2013- Animal Planet’s Battleground Rhino Wars aired in the US, introducing many to the rhino poaching crisis for the first time.
  • Sept 2013- US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Southern White Rhino as threatened.
  • Mar 2014- US philanthropist Howard Buffet gave a generous 24 million donation to fight rhino poaching in Kruger National Park.
  • Jun 2014- New York passes historic ban on elephant ivory and rhino horn sales (with 80% of New Yorkers in favor of the ban)
by: Ryan Huertas

by: Ryan Huertas

Of course the US still has a way to go, but for a country who at one point was the second largest ivory market to enact a ban in its most populated state, it’s certainly nothing to scoff at. This victory will set the precedence for the rest of the nation.

Additionally, if the latest backlash against well-known hunters Melissa Bachman, Corey Knowlton, and Kendall Jones is any indication, momentum is leading toward a ban against trophy imports as well.

Please take a moment to thank the President and ask him to stand strong against those who oppose the ivory ban. President Obama: Keep Fighting Poaching

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Which Country is a Poacher’s Haven?

All eyes are on South Africa as the epicenter to the war on rhino poaching. As the death toll rose to over a 1000 in 2013, this year is shaping up to be comparable to that.

But rhinos, just as poachers, know no borders. So what is happening in the surrounding countries?

south africa and surrounding 2

Namibia ~ From 2005 to 2010, there were no reported poachings. 11 have been killed since then, with 4 all in this past year. Namibia has deployed soldiers in anti-poaching units to stop the escalation.

Environment and Tourism Minister Uahekua Herunga said “We have created a permanent unit made up of the army and all security services solely dedicated to anti-poaching. “The unit will be in place forever, or until poaching has been drastically reduced.”

Botswana ~ Working on sustaining its rhino population, they have recently relocated up to 100 rhinos from South Africa. Botswana is home to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a model for conservation, with no animals being poached since it’s founding 24 years ago.

“Our number one focus has been to make local people aware that these animals are worth more alive than dead,” Moremi Tjibae, the sanctuary’s chief warden.

whities in kharma

White Rhinos in Kharma Rhino Sanctuary

Zimbabwe ~ The bright spot for rhinos here is the Lowveld Rhino Program. Approximately 80% of the country’s surviving rhinos are in Lowveld Conservancies. Poaching levels dropped by 66% in 2013. Although it’s a comprehensive conservation program, it is hard to know if the drop is from stricter penalties or with less than 1000 rhinos, if they have simply become harder to come by.

Mozambique ~ The biggest thorn in the side of conservationists in southern Africa-where poachers and crime syndicates are so brazen, they reside in an area known as “Poacher’s Alley”, a neighborhood built on the blood of rhinos and elephants.

They have a blatant disregard for the rules of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora). Not only do they ignore the rampant poaching, there is evidence the state is complicit in the activity.

“Many of the crime syndicates have moved their base of operation from South Africa to Mozambique, where they are able to act with impunity,” said Susie Ellis, executive director of IRF, a nonprofit rhino conservation organization with field programs around the world. “Mozambican poachers are highly organized and are slaughtering rhinos and elephants on a daily basis, while the Mozambican government turns a blind eye.”

poached mom rhino with baby near

Mozambique is thought to be responsible for 80-90% of the poaching in Kruger National Park.

It has become so out of control that on 3 July, the Environmental Investigation Agency petitioned President Obama to sanction Mozambique for their continuous role in rhino and elephant poaching.

With Obama’s Executive Order to combat wildlife trafficking announced a year ago, this is in direct and obvious violation.

“…the United States shall promote and encourage the development and enforcement by foreign nations of effective laws to prohibit the illegal taking of, and trade in, these species and to prosecute those who engage in wildlife trafficking, including by building capacity”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Victory-The US Addresses the Elephant in the Room

elephants holding trunks

The US is a huge part of the global trade in ivory, second only to China. And within the US, New York is the number one importer ivory into the country. So the decision by the New York Legislature to ban the sale and purchase of ivory AND rhino horn is remarkable.

With support from conservation groups (The Wildlife Conservation Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and The Humane Society of the United States) and celebrities  (Billy Joel, Meryl Streep, Kristin Davis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dave Matthews, and Matt Sorum), the bill is expected to be signed into law.

The law places a permanent ban on the sale of elephant and mammoth ivory and rhino horn and increases the penalty for those found to be possessing or selling it.

This does not come as a complete surprise, as President Obama prioritized cracking down on wildlife trafficking in July of 2013, but it is definitely a crucial win in the battle of poaching.

rhino field

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Corey Who?

Ever since the Dallas Safari Clubs auction to hunt a black rhino in Namibia, one man has become the face of this tragedy. His lust for the hunt has earned him both contempt from conservation advocates, and defense from hunters. Although he bears disdain for his action, he is one of many “thrill of the kill” hunters, who deserves no further mention.

Blaming Knowlton is like blaming a single roach for an infestation. They only come because the conditions are right. And they will continue animal trophiesto come unless the environment is changed.

We mustn’t lose focus on the big picture. Namibia offered this rhino up to be hunted, the US has no qualms of the trophy being brought back, and the Dallas Safari Club encourages it. This is  barbaric, unsettling, but legal.

The big concern and goal is to stop the practice of trophy hunting altogether. How?

In some ways this seems as grand and daunting as saying “I want world peace”. There is not a one step answer.  But it’s something that is necessary if our endangered species are to survive. It requires cooperation from all countries, one law at a time.

United States

Here in the US, it is LEGAL to buy and sell ivory within the country, AND to import ivory and horn via hunting trophies But the tide may be changing.

June 2013 President Obama gave an executive order to combat wildlife poaching. Recognizing the international importance on not only the effects on wildlife, but on national security, as illegal wildlife trafficking is within the top five world crime.

November 2013 The US Fish and Wildlife Service destroyed 6 tons of it’s ivory stockpile. 25 years worth of illegal seizures were pulverized in order to send a message of zero tolerance to poachers. As the second largest ivory market (behind China), this is an important step in the countries’ stance on wildlife conservation.

crushed ivory

US Fish and Wildlife Service involved in Denver, Colarado’s ivory crush.

January 2014 The state of New York held a meeting to discuss banning ivory within the state. Assemblyman Bob Sweeney wrote a letter imploring the Department of Conservation to prohibit the sale of ivory in New York.

“New York state must close the market that is driving the elephant to extinction and helping finance terrorism,” Sweeney said.

February 2014 The state of Hawaii just announced the House Committee unanimously advanced a bill to outlaw the sale of all ivory products in the state.

If this country is indeed on it’s way to a full ban of ivory, trophy hunting WILL be affected. As there would be no elephant trophies allowed into the country. And in this matter,  ivory is no different than horn. The same notion applies: preservation of wildlife and the poaching connection to international terrorism.

If the great thrill hunters cannot boast of their hunt with trophies on their walls, perhaps they will be less inclined to do it at all.

Sign and share this petition by the International Fund for Animal Welfare to urge the US Fish and Wildlife Service to stop allowing permits to import endangered species. Protect Black Rhinos from Trophy Hunting & the petition by Animal Advocates to the Secretary of the Interior Prevent Dallas Safari Club from Importing Rhino Trophies

rhino and baby at watering hole

 

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US Closes Loophole in Horn Trafficking

Finally! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is listing the Southern White Rhino as threatened. This now places ALL rhino species under the umbrella of protection of the Endangered Species Act.

This closes a loophole that has been allowing the exploitation of international rhino horn trafficking. The move will give legal strength to prosecution of offenders.

This comes after President Obama issued an executive order aimed at combatting wildlife trafficking in July of this year. He cited a direct threat to the national security of the country, as well as health concerns (the possible emergence of infectious diseases from animal trafficking).

Operation Crash is a part of the Fish and Wildlife Service that conducts ongoing criminal investigation, addressing all aspects of U.S. involvement in the black market of rhino horn trade.

For more FAQ on this proposal: US FISH AND WILDLIFE SOUTHERN RHINO LISTING

3 southern white rhino

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Mixed Messages on Worldwide Wildlife Trafficking

TOP 5  Illegal Activities in the World:

1)Drugs
2)Human Trafficking
3)Counterfeiting
4)Arms
5)Wildlife Trafficking

Finally someone has brought serious attention to the public eye on the lucrative illegal wildlife trade, the 5th biggest avenue of corruption and criminal activity in the world. Upon his visit to parts of Africa, President Obama announced his wildlife initiative plan.

THE U.S

Obama’s new campaign to fight wildlife trafficking includes an executive order, $10 million in funding, a task force and a presidential advisoryobama wildlife init council. The campaign will focus on helping affected countries establish and enforce better trafficking laws;, supporting regional cooperation; training their police and rangers; and beefing up their law enforcement and intelligence-gathering capacities. It will also use a new “Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program” to offer bounties for poachers and push for more modern technologies to identify and capture them.

The issue has also been presented with China in an effort to address the demand side of the trade in animal parts, primarily rhino and elephant. Both President Obama and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have discussed this with them.

 SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

It means the U.S is publicly going on record to show no tolerance for the continued decimation of  animals on our planet, as well as putting emphasis on the seriousness of the criminal syndicate. Now valued between $7 billion to $10 billion a year, the lucrative trade funds many  corrupt operations i.e. drugs, human trafficking, weapons, and gang activity.

The U.S is  second only to China in partaking in the black market of wildlife trade. This admittance and commitment will step up regulations here, as well as setting the bar for the rest of the world.

The President stated “The survival of protected wildlife species … has beneficial economic, social, and environmental impacts that are important to all nations. Wildlife trafficking reduces those benefits while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to the illegal economy, fueling instability, and undermining security.”

The Philippines Contribution

In a monumental move to battle the illegal wildlife trade, the Philippines were the first Asian country to publicly destroy it’s stockpile of ivory. On Friday it started the destruction of 5 tons of seized ivory.A road roller crushes smuggled elephant tusks at the Parks and Wildlife center in Quezon City

Ramon Paje, Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said “The Philippines will not be a party to the massacre and we refuse to be a conduit to this cycle of killing,”

Although on the surface, they are sending a strong message, according to DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, there are still 8 tons unaccounted for. There is currently an investigation to determine its whereabouts.

What about South Africa?

Shortly after Obama’s’ visit, South Africa announced plans for a one-time selling of its stockpile of ivory. Ironic this should come on the heels of the President’s visit. The debate on legal horn trade rages on, but the timing of this decision seems to undermine the seriousness and conviction of the statement from the U.S.

With the U.S. and even the Philippines stepping up,  it seems momentum is on the side of wildlife. So why wouldn’t S.A. simply destroy theirs as well?

History has proven legal trade does NOT work. In 2008 the ban was lifted on ivory, which opened the flood gates and escalated elephant poaching , which they are still being massacred for.  Repeating this for the rhino would be the same disaster.

no to trade

Please let your voice be heard.  South Africa’s move toward petitioning CITES to legalize the rhino horn trade will decimate the species..    

Please write! #-SayNoToRhinoHornTrade
Email: info@cites.org

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