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Nous Sommes Tous Charlie!

The acts of terror in Paris over the past few days and the resultant groundswell of defiance by the citizens not only on the streets of the capital but in Toulouse, Nantes, Marseilles, Nice and many others all over France have emphasised the values that this nation holds above all else – equality, fraternity and liberty. In fact, one could say they are France’s greatest export, a special gift to the world.

Part of these values is the right to question, to challenge ideas, concepts and beliefs and to object to anything, as long as it’s in a non-violent manner. The freedom of speech, to express one’s thoughts with pen, crayon or keyboard is an essential tonic that prevents the plague of institutional oppression and violence from overwhelming a just society. Satire is possibly the greatest weapon of all.

By allowing a free flow of ideas from all angles, a society paradoxically generates a tolerance of others and of differences of opinion. Obvious religious, gender and class disparities and opposing convictions are deferred from their traditional face-offs and the lines become smudged. In a free society such as France opposing notions of Us and Them, Male and Female, Old and Young, Black or White, Pro- or Anti-, Christian or Muslim are not important.  Making them important, however, kills the health of a society and submerges it into the hellish dystopia that Syria, Iraq, Libya and Somalia currently find themselves drowning in.

Therefore, as free-thinking individuals, it is our duty to stand up to the repression of otherness, and the consequential violence it perpetrates. We all need to pull those pens from our shirt pockets and put ink to paper. We will not hide from the terror. We will fight by being thunderously vociferous. We will shout from the rooftops and mountain peaks that ‘We Are All Charlie!!’

An Unholy Alliance: China and Tanzania Decimating Africa’s Elephants

A new report by The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) called Vanishing Points – Criminality, Corruption and the Devastation of Tanzania’s Elephants has revealed that Tanzania is officially the world’s largest source of poached ivory and China is by far the greatest beneficiary. Nothing surprising there, but what’s of particular concern is that the illicit trade is masterminded by high-ranking officials from both countries in a nefarious partnership that has caused half of Tanzania’s once-considerable elephant population to be slaughtered in just five years. Tanzania’s largest game park the Selous reserve has seen its elephant numbers plummet by a staggering 67% from around 40,000 individuals to around 13,000, which is equivalent to thirty elephants slaughtered a day.

The report, released on the eve of a major wildlife crime summit in Tanzania, has revealed that politicians in Tanzania’s ruling party as well as high-level Chinese diplomatic delegations are responsible for transporting huge amounts of ivory out of the country. In 2013 an official visit of the Chinese naval task force witnessed a sudden spike in business for ivory traders with one dealer bragging he made $50,000 from naval personnel, while a Chinese national was caught with 81 tusks trying to enter the port of Dar es Salaam, also intended for Chinese naval officers. The same phenomenon occurred when Chinese President Xi Jingping paid an official visit to Tanzania. Prices of ivory doubled during the period the presidential delegation were there. The large Chinese Government and business delegation on the visit used the opportunity to procure a substantial amount of ivory and shipped to China in diplomatic bags on the presidential plane.

Even as far back as 2006, the EIA uncovered Chinese Embassy Staff as major buyers in ivory, while in 2012 Tanzania’s president Jakaya Kikwete was handed a list of top businesspeople, government officials and MPs heavily implicated with the ivory trade. To date nobody on the list has been investigated let alone arrested. Last year former Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Khamis Kagaheki, named four prominent MPs in the government actively involved in the ivory trade, and again nothing was done apart from Kagaheki being unceremoniously sacked from his post.

Trade in ‘illicit’ ivory in Tanzania is a booming business with a sophisticated network of high-ranking officials from both countries. Furthermore, the crime appears to be carried out with impunity. One of EIA’s investigators was offered tusks from the Government’s storeroom and even put them in touch with a dealer who could supply tusks direct from the Selous Reserve. As EIA’s executive Director, Mary Rice said: ‘This report shows clearly that without a zero tolerance approach, the future of Tanzania’s elephants and its tourism industry are extremely precarious.’

Rice believes that ‘the ivory trade must be disrupted at all levels of criminality, the entire prosecution chain needs to be systemically restructured, corruption rooted out and all stakeholders, including communities exploited by the criminal syndicates and those on the front lines of enforcement, given unequivocal support. All trade in ivory, including all domestic sales, must be resolutely banned in China which has failed to comply with CITES ivory controls.’

Tanzania and China were both named and shamed in 2013 for their involvemnent in the ivory trade. CITES demanded that each government implement action plans to halt the plague but it appears that neither have. Kikwete has made a big show of compliance to CITES’s demands. In 2013 his government launched Operation Tokosa a concerted anti-poaching operation called Tokomeza. This was initially, the multi-agency operation  and appeared to be succeeding, making more than 900 arrests and  seizing ivory and firearms. Yet it was fundamentally undermined by a series of human rights abuses carried out by the military against livestock herders. As a result, the operation was suspended.

Then as part of the CITES directed elephant action plan, the current minister of Natural Resources, Lazaro Nyalandu, has sought support and additional funding of at least US$50 million from the international community, mostly for anti-poaching activities. In February this year, Kikwete sighned the London’s Convention on a 10-year moratorium on ivory sales. During a recent television interview, he also stated that ivory should be banned out right. It was a strange volt-face by a president who had been long campaigning to down-list elephants so that the country could sell of its huge stockpile of tusks.

This begs the question if Kikwete is genuinely intersted in tackling the problem or, as it appears from this EIA report, he is merely providing a diversion to the ongoing conspiracy. In the last five years Tanzania have ‘confiscated’ 26.5 tons of ivory which means that 3,963 elephants died. But there has only been one conviction.

The report also revealed that sales in China, the source of the ivory crisis, is burgeoning. Despite some high-profile arrests and a public display of crushing seized tusks, the Chinese Government has actively been promoting ivory carving as part of the country’s cultural heritage, but are unconcerned that it is threatening Africa’s natural heritage.

Investigations reveal that the new trend is that ivory is used as gifts for the political and business elites, as a non-financial bribe. Chinese-led criminal syndicates are making huge profits from this new market but are, in the process, fostering a surge in demand as well as fueling corruption in Tanzania. The latter has, as a result of the ivory trade, slid from 88 to 111 of 178 countries according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

While China’s enforcement agencies deserve some credit for a recent operations resulting in successful prosecutions, the amount of illegal ivory seized, according to the EIA, represents at best only about five per cent of illegal ivory flowing into China meaning that the Chinese government are window dressing the horror. If anything, this proves they are deeply complicit.

With both countries constantly flaunting international law at its highest levels, it’s high time for the world to take the gloves off. Tanzania and China must be held accountable for the holocaust, the future of Africa’s elephants depends on it.

 

Beyond Healing: Let’s Get Real About The Trade in Rhino Horn

A couple of weeks ago a report came out trumpeting that in 2014 the demand for rhino horn in Vietnam had dropped significantly when compared to 2013 – by 38% to be exact. The survey was conducted by polling firm Nielsen on behalf of the Humane Society International (HSI), an animal protection organisation, and the Vietnam CITES Management Authority (MA). Ostensibly, this is very good news… but why is there a feeling that something isn’t right?

HSI have declared they ‘engaged stakeholder groups including the 800,000-member Hanoi Women’s Association, the business community, university students, school children, and the scientific community, as well as many leading health experts, to help spread messages against the use of rhino horns’. They also dished out copies of I’m A Little Rhino to young pupils, while advertisements on billboards appeared all over the capital city – at the airport, on the sides of public transport as well in numerous press infomercials explaining that rhino horn is of no medicinal value. The follow-up survey, according to HSI, is proof that these campaigns are paying dividends.

Forgive me for sounding sceptical but if a bespectacled surveyor with a clipboard and pen asked if I was purchasing an illegal product would I say ‘yes’? Especially if there was a global campaign to discredit buying rhino horn I would feel even more disinclined to admit it. Let’s be honest, this is a clandestine business and buyers and sellers are probably more secretive than ever now that the word is out.

There are other obvious faults with this survey. If there has been such a reduction in demand, how come the rate of poaching keeps going up? Neither does the Vietnamese government show any urgency in cracking down otherwise, as one pundit argues, how come ‘there has been no noticeable increase in arrests, prosecutions, or effective punishments directed toward either buyers or dealers?’ The same pundit mentioned that if the government wants to crack down it can, and will. Yet it doesn’t.

However, the biggest concern about this HSI survey is that demand is not really down. Do Quang Tung, director of the Vietnam CITES MA has stressed that the group could be fabricating a positive message in order to keep the donations flowing, while other observers and investigators have revealed that traders in Vietnam are actively expanding the market for rhino horn.

In its powdered form, rhino horn has been prescribed in south-east Asia for at least two millennia, traditionally to reduce fever and treat a range of maladies. Javan rhinos once roamed over much of the sub-continent but their numbers have not been able to sustain the steady increase of human populations. In 2006 the demand spiked drastically in Vietnam as there was an imaginative claim by traditional healers backed up by the more orthodox medical fraternity that rhino horn could cure cancer. Thus, despite 30 years of oncological study that found the material of little medicinal value, the flood gates on rhino poaching burst open. By 2010 the last Javan rhino in Vietnam had been killed but by then traders had already turned to Africa for a fresh supply centre in an effort to meet the exploding demand.

This has lead authorities worldwide to try tackle the problem. One of the more common responses was to de-horn live rhino. This seemed at first to be a simple solution since one can harvest horn from animals without harming them, much like getting wool from sheep. In fact, it was mooted that rhino could be farmed on a scale that may meet the demand in Vietnam. This method has been rejected by leading economists and conservationists for a variety of issues, not the least of them being the concern that the demand may increase and farming methods are unlikely to match it. Besides, poachers still shot de-horned wild rhino either to hack out the base, which was still worth a small fortune; or simply to avoid wasting time tracking them on the next occasion.

One of the more radical solutions was to make rhino horn valueless by contaminating it. To date around 280 animals have been injected with a contaminate that does not harm the rhino but is toxic to humans if ingested.

That would work if rhino horn was strictly for ingestion. Unfortunately, it seems no longer the case. It has been assumed that the sole reason for Vietnam’s appetite for horn has been exclusively for its healing power. This is cetainly HSI’s view, which limited their campaign and survey accordingly. HSI’s Teresa Telecky admitted that the premise of their survey in Vietnam is that rhino horn is used solely as medicine or to improve health.

Other investigations have revealed that rhino horn exclusively for medicinal purposes is a bit passé among serious consumers. Swiss-born Karl Amman, a renowned award-winning investigative filmaker, states that rhino horn in Vietnam has for some time been sold in the form of bracelettes, necklaces, cups or figurines in much the same way as ivory is manufactured and sold. The powdered medicinal form, Ammann points out, is only sold as a by-product of the carved objects; or it has been substituted with ancilliaries such as water buffalo horn. The latter, Ammann discovered after DNA analysis, has practically saturated the medicinal market. 90% of powdered medicinal products he tested proved to be counterfeit. Average consumers have no access to technology such as DNA testing to verify the authenticity of the powdered products they buy, they simply have to trust the vendor.

This is precisely what critics of legalising rhino horn trade have feared. Illicit traders have expanded the market and, as a result, have generated a greater demand for the product. What’s more, as Do Quang Tung reports, indications show that buying rhino horn is not an exclusively Vietnam phenomenon.

After recently returning from his latest investigative project in Myanmar, Laos, China and Vietnam, Ammann, apart from not seeing any of the acclaimed posters in public spaces that HSI are so proud of, has ascertained that it’s Chinese tourists that are bumping up the demand for rhino horn. As with ivory the Chinese have developed a proclivity for rhino horn as objets d’art. What’s more they are prepared to travel for it in much the same way they travel to buy worked ivory products in Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. These countries, Vietnam among them, are far more lackadaiscal with illegal merchandise than China. Guides will take tourists to the factories where the horns are carved so they can see they are buying the geniune product. Ammann claims that 25% of all rhino horn is bought by Chinese tourists, 60% of which when they are abroad. This debunks the theory that it’s just the Vietnamese consumer driving the demand.

Furthermore, the tourists don’t seem that concerned about transport logistics or Chinese customs. As Ammann points out: ‘For China to truly reduce the demand…China would also have to become serious about border controls in the context of wildlife trafficking.’ At the moment, Amman says, it’s a free for all. He has filmed the official border post between China and Myanmar with all the uniformed guards in attendance but just a hundred metres along there’s a hole in the fence where hundreds cross back and forth with impunity. Doubtlessly, it’s the same along the Vietnamese-Chinese border.

Again as with ivory, both the Chinese and Vietnamese consumers now consider rhino horn either as an investment, a status symbol or, interestingly, as a gift. The gift market, says Ammann, is a particularly fashionable trend. Rhino horn objects are primarily bought as sweeteners for business contracts and other backhanders.

From a trader’s perspective this makes a lot more business sense. Worked rhino horn drives the price up from the raw product in the same way that carved ivory does; or unpolished gold and uncut dimonds that are fashioned into jewellery, coins and watches. Ammann has noted that the price per gram of worked rhino horn has risen to US$100/gram up from the previous amount of US$65/gram, while the powdered form has dropped to US$40/gram.

This appalling new trend may have begun to develop sometime ago but due to the West’s continued preoccupation with the notion of traditional medicine usage, it has been allowed to flourish offstage into a prodigious commerce that makes the trade in traditional medicine pale in comparison. Ammann has accused HSI’s ‘feel-good’ message of being counter-productive as it fails to highlight the real cause of the demand.

The world, therefore, is barking up the wrong tree when it comes to its analysis of the rhino horn trade. HSI may be correct in saying that only 2.6% of Vietnamese purchase rhino horn, down from the previous year of 4.5%, but instead of publicising that demand is down they have inadvertantly revealed that the market has shifted into more profitable arenas. Buying rhino horn just for medicinal purposes is no longer fueling the slaughter of rhinos. A radical switch in global strategy is now desperately vital if rhinos are going to survive the remainder of the decade.

 

 

 

Are Rhinos Abandoned by All but South Africa

It looks like South Africa is going to break another record: 2014 is set to exceed 2013’s 1,004 rhino poached. But sadly, it’s not as though the nation is sitting back and doing nothing – far from it. And yet the scourge continues, thanks to a lone chink in the South African armour.

From the groundswell of the nation’s citizens to the various multi-governmental agencies, South Africans are doing their level best to halt the rampage. Just last week in the Kruger Park, where most of the rhinos met their demise, 24 poachers were arrested and a number of others were shot in a joint operation with the SA Police and SANParks rangers. This brings the number of poachers apprehended in 2014 to over 120.

There is, however, a lone chink in the South African armour. Unfortunately, it’s a substantial chink – the penchant for the SA government to push for a legal trade is a misguided hope that it would torpedo the illegal trafficking of rhino horn. Such messages merely confuse consumers as to whether or not it’s morally right to buy the product.

And herein lies the rub. As long as there are consumers consuming, rhinos will continue to get slaughtered. Therefore it’s the world, not South Africa, where the solution to this horror truly lies.

This sentiment is echoed by the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, who in an interview with VICE News stated that it was “important never to lose sight of the fact that there could be faster attainment results if we involve those Asian countries.”

John M. Sellar OBE FRGS, former Chief of Enforcement at the CITES Secretariat and currently a leading anti-smuggling, fraud and organised crime consultant (including for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime) also believes that the real fight lies outside South Africa. Sellar maintains, in an article posted on LinkedIn entitled ‘Is This Really the Best We Can Do? that “since the demand for the horns of these animals originates on another continent, the dedication, and often considerable courage, shown by South African park rangers, police, customs, military, prosecutors and other officials can only go so far.” In order to really tackle the problem, South Africans “need the support of their counterparts abroad.” Such support, unfortunately, has not exactly been forthcoming.

It all boils down to a lack of co-operation in dealing with a trade that is now regarded as one of the largest and most lucrative global crimes. But while Molewa et al are concentraing on the demand in China and Vietnam, and rightly so, it is also the trade in the West, particularly the USA, that is of grave concern. Smugglers bring horn and cargo in through poorly policed ports and take advantage of legal loopholes that exempt antiques and some hunting trophies from the ban on trading elephant ivory and rhino horn. Worse, when agents do manage to snare a wildlife smuggler, the courts are often lenient.

“Our nation hasn’t prioritised wildlife trafficking,” said David Hayes, a former Interior Department deputy secretary, who serves as vice chair of an advisory panel for wildlife trafficking formed by President Obama. A major part of the problem, Hayes said in an interview with the Washington Post, “is the lack of inspections at our ports.”

There are fewer than 330 inspectors and agents posted at strategic US ports of entry, something that hasn’t changed since agency’s law enforcement branch was formed 30 year ago. Since then, international wildlife trafficking has grown from almost nothing into a criminal colossus worth an estimated R200 billion per year, making it the fourth-largest­ global illegal market after drugs, weapons and human trafficking.

Rhino horn, much like ivory, cannot be imported into the US without a federal permit,  unless it’s an antique of 100 years or more old. However, there is a gaping loophole – hunting trophies. Although the US has recently banned the sale of elephant and rhino tropies from some countries, notably Zimbabwe and Tanzania, where it has deemed that the animals are unsustainable for sport-hunting purposes, it still allows the practice from others like South Africa, a nation that encourages hunting as a form of eco-tourism and conservation. The trophies – that are essentially tusks and horns – are strictly for personal use, but owners who tire of the trophies may put them up for sale to collectors at an auction. At $45,000 for just a pound of rhino horn, who wouldn’t tire of their trophy? As a result there is a burgeoning trade for these products at antique auctions right across America, with criminals clutching the usual fake documents weighing in heavily on the action.

While the Obama administration in 2013 belatedly issued an executive order to plug  such loopholes, it’s a case of too little, too late, and the willingness is not really evident with one official telling the Washington Post that they have a better job to do than chase after what is still perceived as cases with a low crime priority.

Sellar highlights such unwillingness in the events following the CITES Rhino Enforcement Task Force that met in Kenya in October 2013. During that meeting, which included representatives from 21 countries including the USA, China and Vietnam, it was recognised that organised crime networks, like the infamous Irish syndicate The Rathkeale Rovers, were operating in a wide range of countries from the UK to Australia.

The Rovers achieved notoriety for their snatch-and-grab thefts at museums and other nations, by yanking rhinoceros horn from exhibits, forcing museums across Europe to replace the exhibits with replicas.

All this is removed from the actual poaching taking place in South Africa. In fact, Sellar points out that many of poachers themselves come from beyond South Africa’s borders, mainly Mozambique, whilst citizens of the Czech Republic, Thailand and Vietnam have all participated in fraudulent hunting expeditions within the country.

This realisation led to an agreement at the Kenya meeting for the creation of a directory of the 21 nations present in order to facilitate rapid communication and enable law enforcement officials to realise, for example, that in one particular country the focal point might be in the police, whilst in another it might be in customs. The simple importance of such a directory, states Sellar, is “if the police in Johannesburg need to contact counterparts in, let’s say, Malaysia, we can probably be confident they will be able to find the right phone number or email address.”

In short, all the CITES Secretariat required was for each representative nation to provide information for a comprehensive list. Just a name, email address, phone and fax number of the department most likely to handle rhino-related crimes, whether it’s the CITES, environmental authority or the police, etc.

This is essentially something that takes less than a minute to compile, but each country  was given a little more time. They were allowed to submit details no later February 2014, a whole 3-4 months. By July, however, a reminder had to be issued by the Secretariat. Only in October was the directory finally published. It took a full year, or 1,000 dead rhinos.

But that’s not all…only nine nations were on the list (or eight since, as Sellar argues, South Africa doesn’t count). In other words, 14 countries failed to send their details; and before you correct my arithmetic, Sellar reveals that two of the nine were not even at the Rhino Task Force meeting. “Apparently [they] were interested enough to demonstrate their preparedness to assist, if need be. So stand up and take a bow, Greece and Japan!”

While China, the Czech Republic and Mozambique submitted their information [see list] there was nothing from the USA, Vietnam, Thailand or Malaysia, four of the biggest culprits in the illegal rhino horn trade. And while China and Mozambique have submitted theirs, it probably won’t be of much use to a South African investigator. Mozambique, for example, is notorious for non-compliance, especially if it involves CITES and, if anything, the nation’s officials are initimately linked to the crime syndicates they are supposed to be combatting. I sincerely doubt the name given for Mozambique in the directory carries much authority. A gmail account for such a position doesn’t give one much comfort that much will get done. It’s even more surprising that it was accepted by CITES at all.

What this tardiness and shocking lack of compliance reveals, in this most straighforward of operational tasks, is that the world doesn’t care a fig about rhinos. South Africa will remain fighting a losing and very lonely battle to save the species. As Sellar concludes about the world’s response: “In the race to catch up with criminals, our feet are not even on the starting blocks.”

Elephants Under Seige

Harare, Zimbabwe – Conservationists are concerned at reports in Zimbabwe’s media that the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ), whose membership comprises almost exclusively of hunting operators, is set to hand over information requested by the US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) in another effort to over-turn a ban on importation of sport hunted elephant trophies.

In April the USFWS announced the suspention of all imports of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe for the calender year 2014. USFWS representative, Gavin Shire, cited that “The U.S. is required to certify each year that the elephant hunt in each country is not detrimental to that population. This entails each country submitting specific information on the elephant population, its management of that population and any poaching that may be occurring. This year, Zimbabwe failed to provide the required information and so we had no choice but to suspend the importation of elephant trophies from that country.”

Furthermore, in a press statement announcing the ban the USFWS showed concern that available data out of Zimbabwe showed “a significant decline in the elephant population” to the point that Zimbabwe’s elephants were “under siege”. The announcement concluded that sport-hunting of elephants in Zimbabwe “is not sustainable and is not currently supporting conservation efforts that contribute towards the recovery of the species.” Recent issues such as the much publicised poisoning of over 300 elephants last year, the misuse of problem animal permits and hunting licenses as well the saga of the Presidential elephants in the private conservancies bordering the Hwange National Park, have all been taken into account by the US department in effecting the ban.

Americans make up the majority of trophy hunters in Zimbabwe, exporting an average of 160 trophies every year. But there has been a long lack of transparency surrounding the allocation of land and hunting licenses with concessions awarded to those well connected politically most of who are without any prior experience in wildlife management.

As a result, Zimbabwe’s top wildlife officials and politicians have scrambled to rescind the ban on this lucrative trade. In May, Zimbabwe despatched a delegation to Washington in an unsuccessful effort to overturn the decision. The delegation was led by SOAZ’s chairman Emannuel Fundira who met various government officials, including the Secretary of State John Kerry. Fundira’s mission barely got off the ground not only because they still failed to provide the information required but outbursts from government ministers back home accusing the USFWS of clandestinely trying to topple the ruliing party and hunting operators like Ron Thompson who likened the department to a militant Islamic state hell bent on destroying Christendom and based his theory that hunting ought to be intensified as there were, if anything, far too many elephants in Zimbabwe.

The SOAZ delegation’s main counter-argument were the 800 000 Zimbabweans under the CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources) project whose livelihood, they claimed, was directly affected by the ban. Such figures are most likely exaggerated and so far have not been proven idependently of the offical records.

The theory behind CAMPFIRE is that communities will invest in environmental conservation if they can exploit these resources on a sustainable basis for their own benefit. The biggest source of income is money accrued from tropy-hunting. The programme is based on creating appropriate institutions under which resources can be legitimately managed and exploited by the resident communities. Profits from the enterprise may be used for communal benefits or distributed to individual households at the discretion of the community.

However, a report released by C4ADS, a nonprofit organization dedicated to data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting of conflict and security issues worldwide and commissioned by animal advocacy group, Born Free USA, has revealed that “across Zimbabwe, economic operations on wildlife range areas are being seized by Zimbabwe’s political-military elites”. In this latest chapter of land seizures the small clique of Zimbabwe’s ruling party politicians and associates who own nearly 40% of the 14 million hectares of land seized from commercial farms are now turning to the more profitable safari and wildlife conservancies. In other words, the CAMPFIRE project appears to be used as a thin veil to cover the actions of land-hungry members of Zimbabwe’s ruling elite, and evidence suggests that the communities in question are far from being affected by the ban since they were hardly benefitting anyway. The result is that the CAMPFIRE communities are resorting to poaching in an effort to either sustain their livelihoods or, worse, gravitate toward the illegal wildlife trade. This is something else the Born Free report highlights, and another reason for the USFWS ban.

Unsurprisingly, then, the delegation was told by US officials that proper aerial surveys of elephant populations and a detailed elephant management plan had to be produced as well as information on precisely how the CAMPFIRE communities are affected before the US would begin to consider lifting the ban.

It now appears, according to SOAZ, that the information has been compiled and will be sent to the US for review. “Should Zimbabwe provide the necessary information,” says Gavin Shire, “the importation could be reinstated and potentially backdated to include all of 2014.”

Should the ban not be overturned, the country, according to Fundira, will look elsewhere. Fundira has recently stated that SOAZ will endeavour to “capture alternative markets, particularly in Eastern Europe” and added that they would complement these efforts by attending the various tourism showcases in countries such as Russia, Hungary and Bulgaria. This policy falls in line with Born Free’s findings that Eastern Europe and the Far East, particularly China, which is currently the largest investor in Zimbabwe’s natural resources, are already replacing the American hunters. Born Free’s concern is not the sport-hunting per se but that it becomes a ‘legitimate’ means to export ‘trophies’ to those countries notorious for their craving of ivory. Already in contravention of the CITES ban, Zimbabwe blatantly allows the sale of worked ivory to China of 10kgs per person. The USFWS ban, therefore, may not necessarily provide a reprieve for Zimbabwe’s elephants as the country will, and is, simply swapping one evil for another.

 

 

 

Campaign to Protect the EU’s Dogs and Cats

Istanbul, Turkey – At the Annual International Companion Animal Welfare Conference (ICAWC) in Istanbul, Turkey last week Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, launched the EU Dog and Cat Alliance amid concerns that the European Union’s 61 million owned dogs and 66 million owned cats benefit from very little legislation protecting their health and welfare.

“We hope that the Alliance will bring greater cohesion on commercial breeding, trade and movements across member states and promote better standards for all EU based dogs and cats” announced Dogs Trust Chief Executive and founder, Clarissa Baldwin OBE at the conference now in its 16th year. ICAWC is the leading conference of its kind with an attendance 241 delegates from 41 countries working in the field of animal welfare. Over the course of the conference last week workshops and talks were given on subjects ranging from shelter building, stress in cats, tackling rabies and stray animal issues.

Yet, the most important development at this year’s conference was the creation of the EU Dog and Cat Alliance whose main task will be to lobby the European Union in introducing and improving legislation for the welfare of dogs and cats in areas such as consumer protection, public health and internal markets as well as to provide a forum for the sharing of information and gathering of evidence of various related issues. Such issues will include:

Commercial Breeding and Trade

Puppies and kittens are bred for commercial purposes but welfare standards vary widely among member states, which can result in serious welfare difficulties and contraventions.

Movements Across Borders

The main aim here will be to provide more efficient monitoring and managing of movements of animals for trade across EU borders, and from third party countries, especially from the East.

Veterinary Medicines and Medicated Feed

Even though the current licensing system for veterinary medicines in Europe is rigorous it is also complex and there is a lack of cohesion between member states, which has led to inefficiencies. The EU therefore cannot be described as having a ‘single market’ for veterinary medicines. According to the Alliance website “this is of concern because the availability of safe, efficacious veterinary medicines across all EU Member States is vital to protecting both animal health and public health.” The Alliance proposes the introduction of a true single market. This will not only improve the availability to protect animals but contribute also to public health.

In a post-conference press release, Baldwin stated that she “is overwhelmed by the positive response to the EU Dog and Cat Alliance” and is thrilled to report that already 14 organizations have signed up as members… “and we look forward to welcoming further members on board.” Dogs Trust European Policy Advisor, Claire Calder, informed this reporter that since the conference more organizations have signed on.

Membership is open to registered charities and not-for-profit organisations from across the EU, which are involved in the rescue/rehoming of dogs and cats, or working to protect their welfare. To find out more about the EU Dog and Cat Alliance and its work, see www.dogandcatwelfare.eu or tweet them at @EUdogsandcats. The Alliance is funded by the UK charity and founding member, Dogs Trust. Members will not be asked to contribute a membership fee to join the Alliance but may, on occasion, be asked to help sponsor or fund specific research, events or initiatives if they so wish.

 

 

 

 

Ecce Animot (Behold the Animal)

Language is perhaps one of the most pragmatic of aspects about how we ought to treat (other) animals). It can go a long way in solving the entrenched separation between humans and (other) animals. Feminist and post-colonial theorists have taken giant leaps in the emancipation of their respective fields simply by altering the way we speak.

In feminist discourse terms such as ‘humankind’ instead of ‘man’ and ‘chairperson’ instead of ‘chairman’ were initially irksome to minds familiar with the older terminology, but these days they are widely accepted. The equal political and social standing of women in many countries owes a lot to the altering of thinking away from gender-specific terms to describe non-gender specific related subjects.

The same could be said for race politics. In South Africa there is a concerted effort to refrain from calling people based on racial differences. Terms like ‘black’, ‘white’, ‘coloured’ are avoided, at least in formal legal and political arenas. The heterogeneous nature of our country must be celebrated by avoiding such reductionist terms. By using these oversimplified terms, the speaker denies all other phenomena that make up a person. If someone responds to a question like “What does Nelson do?” by replying “Nelson is a black lawyer,” his or her answer is inappropriate because the question was not asking for racial classification; it was asking what Nelson does. By saying “black lawyer,” the speaker wants the listener to make a racially prejudiced judgement before (s)he considers what Nelson does. More important, the speaker highlights, if not preserves, a racial segregation or stereotype through innuendo, forcing out our prejudices before we consider anything impartially. Inappropriate use of language has this annoying ability to pre-determine our way of thinking.

The same can be said about the use of the word ‘animal’. There has already been a significant shift in how we use the word. Writers are increasingly becoming sensitive to the erroneous use of the word ‘animal’ to describe all beings other than humans, even though humans are animals too. Still, most people, and even some protagonists of animal liberation regard terms such as ‘non-human animal’ or (other) as cumbersome. Some animal rights writers argue that even though humans are animals, putting words like ‘non-human’ every time becomes tedious and breaks the flow of the text. Such ‘unnecessary words’ may be tedious but the point is that such terms must break the flow of text and ergo the flow of thinking about (other) animals. The terms ‘non-human animal’ and (other) animal have to disrupt our reverie every time our eyes pass over them.

The power to name and the need to reject reductive, pejorative designations can be used to good effect with (other) animals. ‘Wild dogs’ and ‘killer whales’ ought to always be called ‘painted dogs’ and ‘orcas’ in order to defer the negative connotation attached to their current names. Adjectives like ‘gregarious’ to only describe (other) animals when ‘social’ will do both for human animals and community-based non-human animals. Or refiguring the adjective ‘humane’ when it is clear that the most beastly of all beasts are humans.

However, the singular noun ‘animal’ remains the primary stumbling block, one that French philosopher Jacques Derrida believed had to be overhauled before one could move toward proper fair treatment of (other) animals. To use the word ‘animal’ to refer to all non-human animals and by doing so deny their great heterogeneity is simply unethical.

As a result, Derrida introduces a simple statement ‘Ecce animot’. The original title Ecce Homo stems from the utterance of Pontius Pilate in the Vulgate when he presents Jesus Christ to a hostile jury shortly before his crucifixion. The English translation is ‘Behold the Man’. Derrida’s ‘Ecce animot’ is read ‘Behold the Animal’ suggesting ‘Behold Man-as-Animal’, meaning that is how humans ought to be judged – as animals too.

‘Animot’ is not a real word but sounds exactly the same as the French plural for animals, animaux. Derrida is registering both his dislike for the use of the word ‘animal’ and the common insistence of using the term in its non-human generality. Furthermore, the suffix ‘mot’ is French for ‘word’. The ‘mot’ is there to remind us that what is chiefly the reason behind our tendency to reduce and atomise non-human animals is language. The structure of language is the most fundamental challenge for a new ethic on how we humans view (other) animals. It is these oversimplified distinctions that separate human animals from all others that above all need to be dismantled in order to supply a tangible ethic for all animals – each and every one.

 

Banning the sale of ivory in the USA: A Moral Dilemma

A moral dilemma has emerged following an online debate to an article in Forbes Magazine discussing the US ban on all trade in ivory. The main article by Doug Bandow is palpably against the ban of legal trade, and, somewhat inadequately, the author provides various aesthetic and sentimental reasons for his stance. The article garnered some immediate comments from those, this writer included, who know elephants a little better. We challenged Bandow’s views by arguing that the ban would go a long way to stemming the rampant slaughter of illegal trade and consequently lauded the US government for its bold and decisive act.

Then there was a comment by Jenny. She is not a talented Forbes correspondent nor an expert on elephants or conservation but simply someone whose parents had bought ‘as an investment’ around US$ 200,000 of carved ivory pieces in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Her father has since passed away and the ailing mother, now suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and ‘declining fast’, is struggling to pay her medical bills. Selling the family heirlooms, says Jenny, will alleviate most of the pressure and provide urgent treatment. That is no longer possible. Because she can’t sell it, the ivory she owns is as valuable as the cheap plastic trinkets found in Chinese 1-dollar stores.

What makes Jenny’s predicament morally compelling is that she has unwittingly provided a far stronger case against the US government’s ban than the precocious Bandow. Her quandary is a particularly powerful one in that she is essentially asking us to make a basic choice – the life of a human over the lives of other animals. This resonates deeply with most human beings. The vast majority of our species would agree that when it comes to the life of a human versus the life of an animal, human value must take precedence. It’s the morally correct choice. The US government ought to lift the ban on compassionate grounds to allow Jenny’s mother to sell her ivory, which these days would be considerably more than what her and her husband originally paid for them.

But what about our compassion for the elephants? There are some that question the validity of humans having more value than other animals – and logically they are correct. What makes humans ethically more superior than other animals? Sure, we can reason, drive motorcars and write clever pieces in Forbes but we are also guilty of genocide, torturing and kidnapping children and have dropped nuclear bombs on innocent civilians. Even if that logic doesn’t wash with the obedient citizens of the world, what is the value of an ailing old lady compared to the continued existence of an entire species?

Jenny may argue that a once off sale of her mother’s ivory will do little to fuel elephant poaching. After all what are a few family heirlooms in the big scheme? But then one could argue for a once-off sale of a big stash of cocaine to pay the medical bills of an ailing relative. In the big scheme it’s not going to make a difference to the global drug trade, but somehow most of us would think it wrong. Again, the human-animal disparity crops ups, and again it makes no logical sense why most of us baulk at selling drugs but not ivory.

It begs the question, are all sentient animals – including humans – morally equal? In the general sense, they are. Each individual life has an intrinsic worth in that they are valuable to themselves; and if one deploys this logic, no individual can be morally more superior than another.

However, ethics is not a science, it doesn’t necessarily follow logic. While intrinsic worth of individuals may be accepted, its when placed in relation to others or in different contexts that the equality of sentient beings becomes confused. Animal rights lawyer Gary Francione posed this interesting question: if your beloved pet dog and your child were in a burning house and you could only save one, which would you choose? For most of us it’s a no brainer – your child, of course. Not because it’s a human versus an animal but because it’s an individual sentimentally or compassionately closer. Similarly if I had to choose between my beloved pet dog and a convicted serial child murderer, I would choose my dog. Jenny is choosing her mother over the elephants. She is exercising an accepted moral choice.

Is the US government, therefore, wrong in denying Jenny her moral right to save her mother? Unfortunately for Jenny, societies have different moral codes to individuals. Morality in the collective realm is far more complex. In many cases governments need to sacrifice the moral requirements of an individual to safeguard the general good of the population. An individual might find it necessary to steal in order to pay for their medical bills, but the general will would counter this by asking ‘what if we were all allowed to steal to pay for our medical bills?’ There would be widespread chaos and consequently, stealing in any form is illegal by universal law. Morally, the government cannot make exceptions because if you allow one, you must allow all.

The universal law approach is precisely the path the US government has taken by banning the trade in ivory. If we all traded in ivory, we wipe out the elephants, and as with the law against stealing, there can be no exceptions.

 

Counting the Costs

In perhaps the first formal study of its kind, a report entitled Dead or Alive? Comparing Costs and Benefits of Lethal and Non-Lethal Human Wildlife Conflict Mitigation on Livestock Farms, has revealed, somewhat surprisingly, that lethal methods to combat livestock losses to predators are not only less practical but financially more costly than non-lethal methods. This radically counters the widely accepted perception that lethal predator management such as the use of traps, poisons and bullets is cheaper and easier to implement and maintain than non-lethal methods such as the use of guardian animals and protective collars.

Livestock loss through natural predation is the principal cause of human-wildlife conflict throughout the world but is particularly prevalent in South Africa. In a survey in 2010 the estimated the cost of livestock loss to predation was USD 171 million. The predominant land-use in South Africa remains rangeland agriculture as it has for centuries. The sector has, however during the past 50 years, moved towards more extensive and commercial systems. Economies of scale and political and legal imperatives have forced farmers to reduce labour costs and risks, and to acquire increasingly extensive rangelands without using time-honoured preventative methods such as human shepherding. This has resulted in a steady increase of losses to local farmers’ herds, which have provoked widespread retaliatory and preventative killing of predators.

In South Africa farmers have primarily employed lethal methods such as gin-traps, gun-traps, poison and hunting to eradicate problem carnivores. This has been done on advice, and sometimes the assistance of government. Permits and blanket culls to eradicate predators are encouraged and, as in the case of the Western Cape province, subsidised.

The problems with lethal predator control

Yet despite these methods not only has lethal management negatively impacted on predator populations, and the ecosystem at large, it has been found in a separate study in 2008, that losses to livestock have, if anything, increased.

The reasons for the failure of lethal control to achieve results are varied. Lethal methods are unselective, indiscriminate and often kill non-target species and, as in the case of South Africa, can also destroy severely threatened species like the Cape Vulture whose populations have been especially susceptible to poisons. Many predators have learnt to avoid control efforts but even if the intended culprit is removed, as is common among jackals, there usually is an influx of subordinates that fill and vie for the territorial vacuum thus increasing the number of predators and ergo livestock losses. This has resulted in a parallel increase in a farmer’s commitment and expense.

The economic advantages of non-lethal control

The study found that non-lethal methods, especially the use of guardian animals, is far more advantageous than lethal control in that it preserves the lives of predators, is more effective in protecting livestock but, most importantly for the farmer, is less costly and requires far less commitment. In Namibia for example, 73% of farmers using guardian dogs like Anatolian Shepherds reported a decrease in livestock fatalities. Dogs are not the only effective guardian animals. Donkeys, alpacas and llamas behave aggressively toward predators and are effective in chasing off smaller carnivores. Alpacas in particular have been used with great effect. James Brodie of Southern Cross Alpacas says that the 5-foot tall camelids are far easier to manage than guardian dogs and unlike pellet eating canines require almost zero special care as they bond, eat and move continuously with the herd. Castrated males are used as they instinctively and vigorously protect their adopted herd by kicking, spitting and trampling anything from small predators to humans. Brodie maintains that the once-off cost of buying a young male will be recuperated within the first two lambing seasons. Thereafter, a farmer may rest easy knowing he or she has a guardian alpaca for up to 15 or 20 years.

During the 3-year study, 11 livestock farms in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province were examined using both lethal and non-lethal conflict mitigation methods. For the first year the farmers used existing lethal controls then switched to guardian animals or protective neck collars for the following 2 years. During the first year the cost of lethal protection averaged at USD 3.30 per head and the loss of stock to predator depredation was USD 20.11 per head.

In the first year of non-lethal control the running costs, which included the cost of implementation, were similar to the lethal costs at USD 3.08 per head but the cost of predator loss was almost 70% less at USD 6.52 per head. In the second year of non-lethal control the running costs were down to USD 0.43 per head and depredation costs dropped further to USD 5.49 per head suggesting that non-lethal methods are financially far more advantageous.

One of the report’s analysts has pointed out that “Lethal predator control is an expensive management practice, with farmers employing permanent trappers, hiring problem animal hunters, and using a range of other lethal control methods with associated management costs (hunting dogs, helicopter culls, poisons, various traps etc.)” while non-lethal control not only preserves the ecology, but is significantly cheaper with less commitment by the farmer.

Social and Cultural Over-riders

In the follow up surveys conducted 13 and 30 months after the study it was found that many of the farms had perplexingly resorted back to lethal or at least a combined program of lethal and non-lethal management control. This is an indication that the human-wildlife conflict is not necessarily economic. There are social and cultural aspects to this age-old conflict. Prestige and enjoyment are powerful over-riders to financial ones.

It is clear therefore that the human-wildlife conflict is not just about economics, even in view of the fact that non-lethal methods far outweigh lethal methods both in cost and commitment. Yet, the latest findings may still go a long way to revolutionising how livestock farmers deal with the anachronism of lethal predator control. Although not ideal in terms of the complete preservation of carnivores, a combined policy at least affords partial protection of the ecology as well as money in the bank for livestock farmers.

 

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