Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

Hunters get black rhinos and leopards in their sights

. Updated: 25 February 2013

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There were some wins for animal protectionists at the CITES meeting in Bangkok, but more ground was lost to the increasingly powerful hunting pressure groups.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. Trophy hunting pressure groups offer African governments sums they cannot refuse to
allow the killing of rare animals. Their well oiled publicity machine spreads the message that money raised killing a few can then help the many.

Namibia was allowed to increase the export of leopard hunting trophies and skins from 100 to 250 animals, and South Africa from 75 to 150. Namibia
and South Africa were also each granted trophy hunting quotas for five black rhinos per year. With 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: 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, did they really imagine it was so that the rhino’s head 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 – is being manipulated and abused purely for the gratification of the hunting fraternity.

The Central African Republic had asked that the ‘surplus’ 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 - e.g. scientific research”,
yet supported the trophy hunting of Appendix I listed black rhinos.

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Indeed, the large European block vote supported all of the proposals for hunting quotas on black rhinos and leopards, despite that the European Parliament had been opposed to them. However, the South African leopards have since had a reprieve. This year the South African government put on hold
the additional quota of 75 leopards. The Department of Environmental Affairs Director General is reported as saying the CITES CoP proposal “was based on incorrect information on the number of leopards in South Africa”.

The Democratic Alliance had called for a moratorium in December, describing the CITES application as “fuzzy science”. They are now asking
the Department to explain “why it allowed the application to CITES.... to go ahead based on unreliable science”. A question those other CITES countries who scrutinised, and then supported the proposal, should also be considering.

Swaziland, again with EU support, has been allowed to downlist its tiny population of 61 white rhinos from
Appendix I to Appendix II. This means that the animals can be shot by trophy hunters or sold to zoos.

Countries pushing for greater protection were not so lucky. It is acknowledged that the African lion is in decline – hunters are one big factor. However, faced with little support, Kenya withdrew a proposal to increase protection for lions.

An even more depressing indication of the march of the trophy hunters followed the CITES CoP. In December the Kenyan government voted to allow
local committees to license ranch owners to hunt, overturning a hunting ban in place since 1977. The President has sent the legislation back to Parliament
for further scrutiny whilst debate rages between conservationists and hunters.

Predictably, the hunters claim that if their blood lust is satisfied they will be pumping money into conservation.

Bloody Ivory
Trade in ivory was just about held at bay at the Conference, but incentives to kill elephants increased. 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. An attempt by Namibia to secure
an annual quota of 2,000 kg of raw ivory and an unlimited quantity of worked ivory jewellry was rejected. However, there was agreement for Namibia to increase trade in hair and leather from elephants and for the non-commercial export of
carved ivory trinkets. Amongst the abstentions on the Namibian ivory trinket vote were the 26 European Union votes – had the EU not looked the other way the proposal would have failed. The consensus at the Conference was that South Africa could change the listing of its elephants to allow
commercial trade in leather goods.

Kenya bravely proposed that once the agreed ivory sales in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa have taken place a 20 year moratorium on ivory be put in place. The proposal had overwhelming support
from the European Parliament, but was not supported by EU Ministers attending the CITES CoP and was rejected.

Although elephant populations in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia may appear to have recovered, the situation is very different elsewhere in Africa. With difficulties protecting this wide ranging species and the inordinately high price of ivory, poaching
and human bloodshed are almost inevitable consequences of any legal trade. There is a proliferation of weapons across Africa, so when
poachers hunt these large animals it is inevitably with automatic weapons and even rocket launchers.

Disposal of Confiscated Items
A Kenyan proposal to close a loophole with regard to the disposal of illegally traded, confiscated and accumulated specimens was agreed with amendments. It is hoped that this will prevent, for example, ivory products being sold after confiscation. ADI had lobbied the EU Ministers and
UK representatives on this matter. We were pleased to see the EU position move from being tentatively against, to supportive, and then in agreement with
the proposal.

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Commercial Captive Breeding Operations and
Conservation

The Conference agreed that commercial captive breeding operations (outside the natural range - ex situ), e.g. leopard or crocodile farms, should
support conservation in the wild (in situ). This could be in the form of finance, animals for re-introduction into the wild, exchange of expertise and so on. Although it seems a positive step to
urge those industries commercially exploiting endangered species to support conservation, ADI has concerns. We had lobbied against this proposal
because we feel many key issues remain unaddressed:

{*]ex situbreeding operations may
create disincentives for habitat protection
and less strict conditions for animals in
trade;

  • ex situproduction may eliminate incentives to preserve wild populations;
  • ex situestablishments can be used to launder illegally traded animals;
  • encouraging large populations of alien species in non-range states is in itself undesirable.

The mink in the UK is an example of the introduction of an alien species through commercial farming which is now part of the UK wildlife. There are numerous other examples ranging from mammals to Africanised bees to snakes. We are also concerned that this sanitises the commercial exploitation of endangered species without any
additional controls. We have seen the financial inducements offered by trophy hunters. Countries with populations of endangered animals may now be offered assistance by commercial breeders and
find themselves locked into agreements to kill and export wildlife.

Bushmeat
Bushmeat is wildlife killed for meat – although Africa has been the focus of efforts highlighting the damage wrought, it is a global problem. The illegal
commercial bushmeat trade has surpassed habitat loss as the primary threat to the African ape populations, and is responsible for the deaths of around 8,000 apes per year. Curbing demand
for bushmeat is vital if the apes are to survive. ADI therefore welcomed adoption of the EU resolution on Conservation of and Trade in Great Apes. This urges countries to implement legislation to
protect great apes:

  • to prohibit commercial trade, with deterrent penalties;
  • to strengthen enforcement;
  • to eliminate sales of great ape meat;
  • to refrain from using great apes as diplomatic gifts.

We also believe that it is important to expand bushmeat awareness beyond those species that are globally endangered – although this is not the
remit of CITES. For example, in many areas of Africa,several species have simply been
eradicated by unchecked local consumption. This is rather poignantly illustrated by Billy, the solitary hippo at Chimfunshi. Billy’s mother was killed by
hunters and the herds of hippo on the neighbouring Kafue River suffered the same fate. Now Billy is alone, with just occasional contact with hippos briefly
travelling into the area. Other species have disappeared from the area altogether. Some animals may not be threatened with extinction, but they are nonetheless disappearing from an increasing number of areas.

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