Monday, May 12, 2014
Chinese premier vows to combat poaching, ivory smuggling (Kenya)
May 11, 2014
NAIROBI, May 10 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said here Saturday that China is strongly committed to protecting wildlife and will spare no effort in combating poaching and ivory smuggling.
The premier made the remarks to Chinese and foreign journalists after visiting the Ivory Burning Site Monument in the Nairobi National Park with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In 1989, then Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi burned 25 tons of ivory and other hunting trophies in the park. To mark the incineration, the Kenyan government reserved the burning site and set up a monument.
China highly appreciates and respects Kenya's hardworking effort and remarkable achievement in wildlife protection, Li said, adding China shares Kenya's considerable emphasis on the issue.
"Our visit to the monument together shows that the two sides are cooperating in good faith to jointly combat poaching and ivory smuggling, and protect wildlife," the Chinese leader said.
It also indicated that the Chinese government is determined to provide any assistance within its capabilities to help Kenya build the capacity to protect wildlife, he added.
Li said that as a signatory to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, China has always abode by the pact.
To counter the rising global ivory smuggling and illegal trade over recent years, he said, China has been taking a series of legal actions and creating inter-agency action mechanism to fight against the crime.
Earlier this year, China destroyed 6.1 tons of confiscated ivory, and will continue to strengthen cooperation with Kenya and other countries on ecological and wildlife protection, Li said.
China will promote such a concept in the world -- protecting wildlife is to safeguard our common homeland, and protecting biological diversity is to ensure the colorfulness of the Earth, he said.
For his part, Kenyatta appreciated China's resolution in wildlife protection, and expressed gratitude for China's support to Kenya and Africa at large in that regard.
The Kenyan president added that he hopes to further strengthen cooperation with China on ecological and wildlife protection.
新華社內羅畢5月10日電 - 中國國務院總理李克強在這裡週六表示，中國堅定地致力於保護野生動物，並會不遺餘力地打擊偷獵和走私象牙。
中國將推動世界這樣一個概念 - 保護野生動物就是保護我們共同的家園，保護生物多樣性是確保地球的多彩，他說。
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Controversy Swirls Around the Recent U.S. Suspension of Sport-Hunted Elephant Trophies
Christina Russo, A Voice for Elephants, National Geographic
May 6, 2014
Battle lines are being drawn after the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) announcement last month to suspend import of elephant trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe for the remainder of 2014.
The decision was spurred by the catastrophic poaching of Africa’s elephants and the fact that in these two countries, according to FWS, “additional killing of elephants…even if legal, is not sustainable.”
The announcement comes on the heels of a U.S. ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory. That ban includes a new rule, expected to come into force in June, that limits the number of African elephant trophies that can be imported into the U.S. to two per hunter per year.
FWS still allows imports of elephant trophies from other African nations, including Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa—although Botswana has banned sport hunting, as has Zambia. (See: No Trophy Hunting in Botswana and Zambia?)
In Tanzania, “questionable management practices, a lack of effective law enforcement, and weak governance have resulted in uncontrolled poaching and catastrophic population declines.” For example, the Selous—Africa’s largest protected area—“has lost 66 percent of its elephants in the past five years,” according to FWS.
In Zimbabwe, FWS points to the 2013 killing of upwards of 300 elephants by cyanide poisoning—a widely publicized slaughter that took place in Hwange National Park. “Information on the status of Zimbabwe’s elephant population, management plans, hunting polices and regulations is limited,” FWS notes. The information available raises “significant concerns about the long-term survival of [its] elephants.”
A number of hunting organizations have protested the suspension. Safari Club International (SCI), an influential hunting advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit and a preliminary injunction to lift the importation ban. SCI says its lawsuit “attacks the inadequacy of the information on which the FWS based its decision and the Service’s failure to consider the beneficial impacts that U.S. hunters and sport hunting have on African elephant conservation.”
SCI has also called upon its members to lobby on Capitol Hill May 8 to protest the suspension. Meanwhile, SCI also says that hunting, park, and safari representatives from Zimbabwe and Tanzania will meet with U.S. officials to discuss the suspension.
Conservation Force (CF), a Louisiana-based hunting advocacy group, responded similarly. John Jackson III, the chairman and president, calls the suspension “wholly irresponsible” and says the move came by surprise. “There was no warning of notice to the two countries, the CITES Secretariat, the African Elephant Specialist Group of IUCN or the hunting community, only a press release after the fact that gives too little explanation.”
Furthermore, Jackson believes that the number of elephants poisoned in Hwange is highly exaggerated and points out that the poaching was “discovered, reported and acted upon by the hunting community… and thanks to the hunting operator in the area… the poachers were caught and are serving stiff prison sentences!”
What is a Trophy?
Many Americans might be shocked to learn that U.S. hunters still kill African elephants for sport.
In fact, several hundred sport-hunted elephant trophies have been imported into the U.S. each year during the past decade, according to FWS. Trophies consist of almost any elephant part, including the head, tusks, skull, feet, tails, belly skins, and femur bones.
CF’s Jackson says more than 11 million big-game hunting licenses are issued in the U.S. annually. About one thousand hunters received a permit to kill elephants.
Whether or not a trophy can be imported into the U.S. depends on the conservation status of the country’s elephants. For trophies from CITES Appendix I elephants (populations in danger of extinction, such as in Tanzania and Zambia), FWS must issue a CITES import permit and “make the additional finding that the import is not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.” (Although there are now limitations on trophy imports, there are no limitations on hunting elephants).
Elephants in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa fall under Appendix II, meaning that those populations are not currently considered in danger of extinction. For Appendix II elephant trophies, only a CITES export permit is required. FWS must determine, however, that the import of an elephant trophy would “enhance the survival or propagation of the species,” says Tim Van Norman, chief of FWS’s permits branch.
Van Norman says this determination is made by reviewing such factors as possible threats to populations, current population estimates, management plans, local community involvement, and if any funds are generated by the import, how they’ll be used to bolster conservation. “Obtaining the information on management programs may entail a lengthy collaborative process between the country of export and the Service,” Van Norman says. FULL STORY HERE
The hub of America’s illegal ivory trade -- a business that kills about 35,000 African elephants a year – is right here in New York, wildlife experts say.
Poachers in Africa are smuggling the precious material, harvested from the tusks and teeth of elephants, whales and other animals, and dealers are selling it to jewelry and antique stores, experts say. Those stores then sell to shoppers, some of whom likely don't know that they're violating the law when they buy it, experts say. According to a recent report on ivory markets in the U.S., there were about 11,300 ivory products for sale in New York City in 2008 – nearly half the products sold that year nationwide. San Francisco, the runner-up in U.S. ivory sales, had about 2,700 ivory products on the market.
The trade has been very difficult to police, despite the high stakes, experts say. But lawmakers and conservationists hope new legislation in New York, and new tighter federal regulations, will change that.
“Poachers should not have a market in Manhattan,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who successfully prosecuted two local ivory dealers in a $2 million bust in 2012. “It is unacceptable that tusks from elephants wind up being sold as mass-produced jewelry and unremarkable decorative items in this city.”
Ivory smuggling is just one part of a $10 billion a year illegal animal trade that plagues the country's ports – especially those in New York and New Jersey.
Lelani Sanchez, a supervisory wildlife inspector for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service based in Newark, says her inspectors have found everything from leopard skins to elephant feet to live birds hidden in a passenger's pants.
“You might find bags and bags of seahorses,” she said.
Basil Liakakos, the chief agricultural specialist of the Customs and Border Protection service in Newark, once found 19 pounds of bush meat -- antelope and cane rat -- butchered from wild species in a passenger's luggage.
But perhaps the largest concern of the moment is ivory.
“Last year it was estimated over 35,000 elephants were killed in the wild,” said John Calvelli, executive vice president for public affairs at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “That would work out to 96 elephants a day. One every 15 minutes." Since 2002, the elephant population in Africa has declined by 76 percent, experts say.
Ivory trade was banned worldwide in 1989. But the illegal trade continues nonetheless, and is still estimated to be worth about $30 million a year – money that experts and lawmakers say goes partly to fund terrorist organizations.
Recently, New York state Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, a Democrat from Lindenhurst, introduced legislation that calls for a complete ban on ivory sales, as well as tougher penalties for those who violate the law. Currently, conservationists say the law is complicated and difficult to enforce, since ivory harvested before 1989 is legal to buy and sell, and there is no burden on the ivory owner to show its origins.
The legislation is pending. Experts say Sweeney's bill, and an executive order recently signed by President Obama tightening federal rules, could make a significant difference.
“If we don't do something we are helping to see the end of this incredible animal," Calvelli said.