Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Endangered animals lose out as trophy hunters make gains at Conference for endangered species


October 2004: As the Conference of Parties (CoP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) draws to a close in Bangkok tomorrow, Animal Defenders International (ADI) fears that the past week has shown ground being steadily lost to hunting pressure groups. The precautionary principle in conservation and animal protection has been the first casualty.

In the past week, Namibia and South Africa have both been allowed to double their quotas for leopards being killed for trophies. Worse still, the critically endangered black rhino has been added to the list of species available to hunters. All moves supported by the EU.

Trophy hunting has become big business, large sums are offered to African countries by wealthy Americans and Europeans to enable them to shoot endangered wildlife. Wildlife populations are not allowed to flourish. Instead, as soon as they are brought back from the brink, trophy hunting pressure groups move in. Governments are offered sums they cannot refuse to allow hunters to fly in and kill rare animals.

Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director ADI: “There are just 3,600 black rhinos left in the world, this sends out a terrible message – if you have enough money, you can kill anything. There is also a financial downside to allowing the hunting of these animals. How much longer will the public pour donations into preserving endangered species if as soon as there are deemed enough, hunters are allowed to shoot them? When people paid to help save the rhino, they didn’t think it was so that the rhino heads could one day hang on someone’s wall.”

“The fundamental principle of CITES – to ensure that international trade does not threaten the survival of any species – has been manipulated and abused purely for the gratification of the hunting fraternity.”

The Central African Republic had asked that the black rhinos be used to repopulate former range states of the species but to no avail.

The UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, say: “Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances - eg. scientific research”, yet supported the trophy hunting of Appendix I listed black rhinos.

It is acknowledged that the African lion is in decline – hunters are one factor. However, faced with little support, Kenya withdrew a proposal to increase protection for lions.

Another controversial issue, trade in ivory, has just about been held at bay at the Conference.

An attempt by Namibia to secure an annual quota of 2,000 kg of raw ivory and an unlimited quantity of worked ivory jewellery was rejected. In addition, it was agreed that conditions (for monitoring illegal sales and killing of elephants) were not yet in place to allow previously agreed sales of ivory to go ahead for Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. However, there was agreement for increased trade in hair and leather from elephants.

Kenya bravely proposed that following these sales a 20 year moratorium on ivory be put in place, a measure that might allow the brakes to be put on the illegal ivory trade and consequent slaughter of elephants. The proposal had overwhelming support from the European Parliament, but was not supported by EU Ministers attending the CITES CoP.

Although elephant populations in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia may appear to have recovered, the situation is very different elsewhere in Africa. For example, Senegal is thought to have already wiped out its elephants, and less than 550 survive in Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. The ivory trade has an impact wherever there are elephants.

ADI believe that poaching elephants and human bloodshed come hand in hand with the ivory trade.

Tim Phillips: “Every time the ivory trade appears to be legitimised, poaching and bloodshed resume. Any quotas allowing limited trade stimulate poaching; the inevitability of this is connected to the inordinately inflated price of ivory (and rhino horn). As with high value illegal narcotics, the high bounty on these animals will always attract criminals willing to take risks for what is seen as quick money. With such large animals involved, the poachers come armed with automatic weapons and even rocket launchers. Throughout Africa there is a proliferation of automatic weapons, but Kenya is particularly vulnerable, being bordered by both Sudan and Somalia. If there is an ivory trade then poachers and Kenyans protecting elephants will die in gun battles. It is surely too high a price to pay for luxury trinkets.”

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