China has made significant progress in the fight against the illicit trade of wildlife products, including ivory and rhino horn, according to a top wildlife conservation specialist. China Daily reports
“China has been serious about strengthening its regulations and law enforcement against the illegal wildlife products trade,” said John Scanlon, secretary-general of the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
“When we look at China, we must recognize the great efforts it has made,” he said, adding that among 177 partner countries of the organization, China is one of the most actively engaged.
“It is not the Chinese government that is involved in the illicit trade, but some individuals are acting illegally. We have to draw a distinction clearly.”
Efforts led by the Ministry of Forestry are functioning well. Enforcement has been significantly improved, and coordination between agencies including police, customs and forest inspectors has been fine-tuned, according to Scanlon.
But there is also an urgent need for the government to raise public awareness of wildlife protection, he said.
“How do you raise the awareness? I think the best way is working with Chinese people, because they know the culture, they know the best way to communicate. That’s why we use our own Chinese staff to directly work with the Chinese authorities to see how we can work with China to help raise awareness,” he said.
Much of the illicit trade relies on the lack of understanding of its implications, he said. That makes it important to work with international organizations such as the United Nations Environmental Programme, which can reach a large number of people.
China has recently invested $200,000 in the African Elephant Fund, based in Kenya, to further protect the species, Scanlon said.
He said there are a significant number of exchanges between China and Africa in terms of wildlife protection enforcement.
“I think what we need to recognize is that domestically, China has taken significant actions to protect the species and the same can be also said of Africa, countries like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, which are taking very strong action to protect their national heritage, the wildlife,” he added.
He said the weak governance in some African countries leads to difficulties enforcing wildlife conservation because of human conflicts and the rampant illicit wildlife trade.
“Unlike the trade in rhino horns, which is all illegal, ivory is a little bit different, because it was traded until 1999, when there was a trade ban imposed,” he said. “In China and other countries, there is a certificate system to legally sell ivory.”
“That’s why we are working with the Chinese government to ensure the system and regulations are fully rigorous, making sure the legal trade is not well-laundered ivory which has been taken illegally,” he said. “When there is a legal trade, there is an opportunity for laundering, and that’s why we should have very tight national legal controls.”
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From WWF blog: Dr Kate Evans is the director and founder of Elephants for Africa. She started her research over a decade ago, looking at adolescent male elephants in the Okavango Delta and how they socialise – with an emphasis on how captive-bred animals would react in a wild environment. Here she talks about how complex these beautiful (and emotional) animals are:
“Elephants have always been my passion, and growing up the poaching crisis of the 1970s and 80s had a massive impact on the journey that my life would take. Since 2002 I have been studying the elephants of Botswana, home to the largest remaining population in the world. My particular interest is male elephants and their ecological and social requirements.
The charity Elephants for Africa was founded in 2007 to support research and education towards the conservation of the African elephants, and we have since expanded to include projects in Ethiopia and South Africa.
I am shocked, but not surprised, to find ourselves in the middle of another poaching crisis, one that is having massive impact throughout the African continent. A small trinket or a large extravagant ornament made of ivory will have had a bloody start as most ivory these days is illegal; hacked from the face of a dead or dying elephant.
Whole herds are being gunned down, calves and adults alike, left to rot in the African sun in a pool of blood to feed humanity’s thirst for ivory.
This mass loss of individuals leads to the breakdown of family units and elephant society at large, leaving herds of leaderless elephants trying to make their way through their home that has become a war zone.
I have seen dead elephants, the bodies of young and old that have died of natural causes, and I have seen elephants visit those carcasses and grieve. One young male I know guarded the dead body of a much older male for three days, chasing the scavengers off.
We have to ask ourselves, what does an elephant do, feel or think when they come across a whole herd of dead elephants? Are they aware of who is responsible? What are the consequences for us humans?
I have come across bush meat poachers whilst by myself in the field and slept with a machete under my pillow in fear of reprisals. Thankfully I’ve never needed to defend myself, but the rangers and wardens that are out there in the field protecting our elephants get my utmost respect. They show no fear, yet they often come across poachers better equipped than themselves and risk their lives daily.
A close encounter with Seba! © Simon Buckingham
Our researcher in Ethiopia has seen the devastation first-hand, with reports of 66 elephants poached in recent months. With only an estimated 150—250 left in Babile Elephant Sanctuary, this loss is devastating – not only to the elephants but also to the ecology of the area if they were to lose this keystone species.
A sea of humanity isolates this population, so if the last elephant were to die there would be no natural repopulation – leading to irreversible change within the system, which would affect the animals and people that rely on this wilderness area.
Even Botswana, a safe haven for wildlife for so long can no longer escape the bloody tide and more and more reports of poaching are emerging.
We cannot fully comprehend the extent of the impact the extinction of the African elephant will have on the ecology and economy of Africa, yet this is where we are heading if we do not stop the illegal ivory trade.
Please be a voice for those that have no voice. The solution is simple: stop the illegal trade in ivory.”
Villagers band together to protect their wildlife and tourism industry
The New York Times
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