WILDLIFE UPDATE : IUCN cries foul over trade in python skins but CITES issued 400,000 export licences….
Study raises concern over international trade in python skins. Wildlife Extra reports
A new study finds that close to half a million python skins are reported as exported annually from South-East Asia. The main importer is the European fashion and leather industry. The study raises concerns over the illegality in parts of the trade, animal welfare issues and the trade’s impact on the conservation of python populations.
Concerns raised about legal quotas.
Wildlife Extra raised concerns in May 2012 about the sustainability of the trade in python skins - Purely based on CITES export quotas, which make them legal transactions. One of the striking facts revealed by the 2011 quota is the vast trade in pythons from around the world, but mostly from West Africa & Indonesia. The 2011 quota for pythons was more than 400,000! Now it isn’t always possible to tell exactly what that number means, but it includes live animals and skins, and, most worryingly, gall bladders. Why on earth are CITES issuing permits for while IUCN are raising concerns about the trade?
Aside from gall bladders, the annual quota for 2011 of 400,000 items seems totally unsustainable – And when you look closer at the figures more than half of this total is for exports from Indonesia – who have a quota for 212,000 pythons or python skins (and an extraordinary 135,000 spitting cobras too!).
Gall bladder permits – Why?
Why does CITES permit trade in python (or any other) gall bladders when the only demand for them is from sad misguided people who believe that it has curative properties for many ailments. CITES also gave permits for 3000+ kilograms of galls and gall bladders to be exported from Russia to Korea alone (many other permits were given too.
To access the CITES database, please click here.
The report, Trade in South-East Asian Python Skins, was launched by the International Trade Centre (ITC), in co-operation with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and TRAFFIC, a joint programme of IUCN and WWF. It reveals that the trade in python skins is worth an estimated US $1 billion annually.
If IUCN are worried about the trade in python skins, why do they issue 400,000+ export licences?
“The report shows that problems of illegality persist in the trade in python skins and that this can threaten species’ survival,” says Alexander Kasterine, Head of ITC’s Trade and Environment Programme. “The fashion and leather industry has a stronger role to play in supporting the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) and the developing countries to ensure supply is legal and sustainable.”
Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam
Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam are the main sources of exports of python skins, with European Union countries – in particular Italy, Germany and France – the biggest importers. Around 70% of all python skins are re-exported via Singapore. The report notes that a lack of transparency concerning undisclosed stockpiles in the country could be facilitating the laundering of illegally sourced skins.
Illegally sourced skins
“It would appear a substantial proportion of the skins in trade are sourced illegally from wild animals, beyond agreed quotas, and using false permits to launder the skins,” says Tomas Waller, Chair of IUCN’s Boa and Python Specialist Group (BPSG).
“With potentially large mark-ups along the supply chain, there is a strong financial incentive for illegal trade in python skins and considerable scope for traders to issue false permits,” says Olivier Caillabet, Programme Officer with TRAFFIC in South-East Asia, and a co-author of the report.
Although more than 20% of exports of Reticulated Python skins from South-East Asia (mainly Viet Nam and Lao PDR) are declared as captive-bred, the report argues that the “commercial case is not convincing and needs to be specifically assessed”, noting that the cost of breeding, feeding and maintaining the snakes to reach slaughter size appears much higher than the market price.
Most pythin skins end up in the fashion trade in Italy, Germany and France – So as long as rich Europeans get to spend their austerity cash on unsustainably sourced python skins the IUCN is happy.
The report recommends that the fashion industry implements a traceability system to demonstrate to consumers that its sourcing is legal and sustainable. This would complement the existing CITES permitting system to allow identification of skins along the length of the supply chain.
Lack of sustainability
An additional concern regards the possible lack of sustainability of sourcing. Large numbers of wild pythons are slaughtered before they reach the reproductive stage, meaning harvest quotas may have been set at unsustainable levels. The report recommends a precautionary approach is applied to harvesting, with legally binding minimum skin size limits to ensure protection of immature snakes.
The report highlights previously unknown slaughter methods, yet argues that trade bans are not an effective or fair way to address illegality and animal welfare issues.
- Study raises concern over international trade in python skins (legalaction4animalrights.net)
- Study on International Trade in Python Skins Shows Concerning Situation (news.softpedia.com)
- Fashion Industry Continues to Enable Unsustainable Trade of Wild Python Skins (ecowatch.org)
- Snakeskin fashion putting pythons at risk – report (nzherald.co.nz)
- Concerns raised over python trade (bbc.co.uk)
- Skin Trading Threatens Python Survival, Says Report (naturenplanet.com)
- Snakeskin fashions threaten pythons (skynews.com.au)
- Snakeskin fashions threaten pythons (bigpondnews.com)
- Python skin trade worth a billion – time to clean out the Everglades! (seshippingnews.typepad.com)
COMMENT: I recently visited another the Chinese city of Kungming where anyone can buy a tiny ‘cute’ turtle swimming around inside a tiny plastic bowl… It’s a toy. But read on, in THE INDEPENDENT today…
Turtles and tortoises are now the most endangered group of vertebrate animals, with more than half of their 328 species threatened with extinction, according to a new report.
Their populations are being depleted by unsustainable hunting, both for food and for use in traditional Chinese medicine, by large-scale collection for the pet trade, and by the widespread pollution and destruction of their habitats, according to the study Turtles In Trouble, produced by a coalition of turtle conservation groups.
The result is that their plight has never been greater, and the world’s 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles will become extinct in a few decades without concerted conservation efforts, the report says.
Asia is the worst affected region; of the 25 most endangered turtles, more than two thirds (17) are from Asia, a result of decades of massive exploitation. “For example, in just one market in Dhaka, Bangladesh, close to 100,000 wild caught turtles are butchered for consumption during a one-day religious holiday each year,” the report adds.
It goes on: “Furthering the problem is a lucrative international black market trade in pet turtles and tortoises that has escalated prices of some of the more rare species into the tens of thousands of dollars. Rumours even exist that some of the rarest Asian species are now commanding prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The world’s 328 species are divided into 263 fresh water and terrestrial turtles, and 58 species of tortoises (plus seven sea turtles which are not covered in detail by the report). With up to 54 per cent of the total considered threatened, turtles and tortoises are at a much higher risk of extinction, the report says, than other vertebrates such as birds, mammals, sharks and rays or even amphibians – which are usually considered the most endangered grouping.
“Turtles are disappearing fast and we are dealing with one of the most significant wildlife crises of our lifetime,” says Rick Hudson, President of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) http://www.turtlesurvival.org/. Several species are down to just a handful of remaining individuals.
No. 1 on the list is the Pinta Island tortoise, one of the Galapagos tortoises species that contributed to Charles Darwin’s theories on “natural selection”. Sadly, only a single male of this species, “Lonesome George”, remains alive today, and the report comments: “Ironically, Darwin and other travellers often ate many of the islands’ tortoises and released rats, goats and other animals, which significantly contributed to their decline.”
Close behind is the Red River giant softshell turtle of China and Vietnam, weighing more than 250lbs with a shell more than three feet long. With only four animals left, the stakes have never been higher. Some species are in danger of disappearing before scientists even find out where they live. Zhou’s box turtle (the 6th most endangered) has occasionally appeared in the turtle markets of China, but to date no one has located a wild population.
The report, Turtles in Trouble, can be downloaded at the link below.
Five under threat
Sulawesi forest turtle This semi-aquatic animal is endemic to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and was originally used in Chinese food in the early 1990s. Habitat destruction has reduced the forest cover on which it depends for survival.
River terrapin With males exhibiting striking seasonal breeding colours, these unusual and attractive turtles have now all but vanished.
Ploughshare tortoise One of the rarest tortoises in the world, there are now only a few hundred left in Madagascar.
Roti island snake-necked turtle This freshwater turtle is found on the tiny island of Roti in south-eastern Indonesia.
Geometric tortoise This small species is found in low-lying sandy areas of the Western Cape in South Africa.
Representatives from ZSL’s Conservation and Living Collections teams on Thursday participated in the launch of the Reefs at Risk Revisited report launch.
In the 10 years since the first Reefs at Risk analysis, threats have increased by 30 percent. This includes recent impacts from climate change which causes rising ocean temperatures and coral bleaching.
The most immediate and direct threats arise from local sources, which currently threaten more than 60 percent of reefs (about 150,000 sq km of reefs). Local threats include overfishing, destructive fishing, coastal development and pollution.
Unless steps are taken to reduce local pressure and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, the percent of threatened reefs will increase to more than 90% by 2030 and to nearly all reefs by 2050.
The report identifies 27 nations most vulnerable to coral reef degradation and loss in the world (of 108 reef countries assessed). The nine coun¬tries most vulnerable to the effects of coral reef degradation, due to high dependence on coral reefs and low adaptive capacity, are: Haiti, Grenada, Philippines, Comoros, Vanuatu, Tanzania, Kiribati, Fiji, and Indonesia.
The report makes 60 recommendations for action. ZSL’s coral reef conservation efforts respond to many of these, including supporting and implementing effective marine protected areas (in Chagos and the Philippines through Project Seahorse), building conservation and management capacity in coral reef nations (EDGE Corals, Project Seahorse), supporting the most vulnerable countries (e.g. Philippines through Project Seahorse) and influencing policy (Climate Change programme; GLOBE Action Plan for Coral Reefs).
The report was led by the World Resources Institute, along with the Nature Conservancy, the WorldFish Center, ICRAN, UNEP-WCMC, and GCRMN. One of the report’s authors, Dr Allison Perry, is a former member of the Project Seahorse team.
The full report can be downloaded at http://pdf.wri.org/reefs_at_risk_revisited.pdf
South Africa maps first deep-sea preserve
Underwater canyons, deep-sea coral reefs and sponge banks are part of a unique ecosystem that South Africa wants to save within its first deep-sea marine protected area. After 10 years of consultations, South Africa has mapped the boundaries for the proposed reserve stretching 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the eastern KwaZulu-Natal coast.The mapping required synthesising the many divergent interests in the Indian Ocean waters, with 40 industries from fishing to gas lines to jet skis operating in an area home to about 200 animal species and their ecosystems.”All of this data was then entered into conservation planning software in order to identify areas of high biodiversity while avoiding areas of high (economic) pressure,” said Tamsyn Livingstone, the researcher who heads the project.The conservation area is being born in a spirit of compromise, which will allow people and companies to continue using the protected waters in zones designated as lower-risk threats to biodiversity.The scheme still needs to be passed into law, but would join South Africa’s existing network of marine preserves strung along its 3,000-kilometre (1,800-mile) coast stretching from the warm Indian Ocean to the cold southern Atlantic.South Africa has embraced this “participatory” method to protecting species living in its water, an approach pioneered in California and Australia.Global goals for protecting biodiversity have been debated for two weeks at a UN summit in Nagoya, Japan (http://www.cbd.int/cop10/), in an effort to set goals on saving habitats which would help to end the mass extinction of species.Environmental groups want 20 percent of coastal and marine areas protected, they say China and India are lobbying for six percent or lower. Talks are supposed to wrap up on Friday.Part of the challenge is in protecting species that are more often than not still unknown. Only one quarter of the estimated million species in the oceans have been discovered.A global census of the oceans unveiled in early October uncovered prehistoric fish thought dead millions of years ago, capturing researchers’ imaginations about what else lurks in the deepest parts of the sea.”Offshore biodiversity is not well known,” said Kerry Sink of the South African National Biodiversity Institute.Exploring the seas remains an expensive project, prompting South African researchers to reach agreements to share information with fisheries, coastal diamond mines and the oil industry.”South Africa’s plan is unique in covering all industry sectors to ensure that biodiversity planning minimizes the impact on industry,” she said.”Healthy offshore ecosystems underpin healthy fisheries and keep options open for future generations.”With growing worries about climate change, scientists say the deep seas could become an important source of protein for the planet, because water temperature changes less at great depths.That assumes that the growth of industry can be managed alongside the marine life, especially as oil companies find ways to drill in ever-deeper waters.The explosion of a BP oil rig in April off the Louisiana coast, rupturing a 1,500-metre deep well, highlighted the risks.It took five months to shut off the leak which caused the biggest the oil spill in US history, with 205 million gallons of oil flowing into the Gulf.
Marine Reserves in UK http://www.marinereserves.org.uk/
South African Biodiversity Inst http://www.sanbi.org/
Countries of world resolve, finally, to seek to save earth’s #biodiversity. Will real action now follow?
A historic deal to halt the mass extinction of species was finally agreed last night in what conservationists see as the most important international treaty aimed at preventing the collapse of the world’s wildlife. Delegates from more than 190 countries meeting in Nagoya, Japan, agreed at the 11th hour on an ambitious conservation programme to protect global biodiversity and the natural habitats that support the most threatened animals and plants.After 18 years of debate, two weeks of talks, and tense, last-minute bargaining, the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity agreed on 20 key “strategic goals” to be implemented by 2020 that should help to end the current mass extinction of species.
At the very least, the signing of the agreement in Nagoya late last night is the moment when the international community at last began to take the destruction of the natural world seriously.
Biodiversity loss has long been the Cinderella of global politics. For many years, while governments have prioritised the reduction of world poverty, and more recently, have taken on board the real threat of climate change, the remorseless destruction of the world’s habitats, ecosystems, species and natural genetic material has been an afterthought.