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)
China‘s ambitions are high – China Daily reports. By 2020, it aims to double its 2010 GDP and per capita income of urban and rural residents both. China’s economic track record has been impressive. It now has a middle class population of more than 300 million and has experienced the fastest ever economic growth over the past 30 years. But it may not be able to maintain this momentum unless it overcomes one of its core policy challenges: water, both in terms of quantity and quality.
Economic growth is no rocket science. Abundant supply of cheap labor and energy powers a country’s industrialization. Without affordable energy, however, energy-intensive businesses are driven out of the market and many factories are unable to produce goods at competitive prices. This link between economic growth and energy – the energy-growth-nexus – is widely acknowledged. But most analysts and policymakers today ignore what really an energy industry is powered by: abundant and sustainable supply of water.
Indeed, China’s economy runs on water. Water is needed at one stage or another to generate energy. China’s industry is the second largest water consumer – it consumes 139 billion cubic meters of water a year – with only the agriculture sector consuming more. And by 2030, Chinese industry‘s water consumption is projected to increase to 265 million cubic meters.
Energy generating plants in China are the largest industrial users of water, consuming about 42 million cubic meters of water a year. Since China’s installed energy capacity is projected to double by 2020, energy producers’ share of water will continue to rise. This growing demand will not be matched by the availability of water. For example, the Water Resources Group, projects that if China carries on with business as usual, its demand for water will outstrip supply by 199 billion cubic meters.
China is running out of water, which could soon curb its growth unless immediate countermeasures are taken.
What exacerbates this shortage is the vicious circle of energy and water – if power-generating plants need water then water treatment and supply facilities need energy. The Third World Centre for Water Management estimates that the water sector consumes as much as 25 percent of the electricity generated globally. Though China’s water sector is not yet among the country’s most energy-intensive industries, it will gradually become so with new hubs of growth emerging in the water-scare western region and the increasing demand for wastewater treatment. Already, about 52 percent of China’s economic output comes from water-scarce regions.
Unfortunately, China does not have much water to begin with. It is home to almost 20 percent of the world’s population but has only 7 percent of its freshwater reserves. Water is one of its scarcest resources. And it is extremely inefficient in the use of water and a world leader in water pollution.
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, which meets more than 70 percent of its energy needs. The country produced 3.8 billion tons of coal in 2011 – almost half of the world’s total. Coal may be considered a cheap source of energy, but the air and water pollution caused by the mining and use of the mineral is devastating. According to Greenpeace, 2.5 tons of water is polluted for each ton of coal produced. About 25 percent of all wastewater in China comes from washing coal, and it contains large amounts of chemicals and heavy metals that are almost impossible to recycle. All this makes the true cost of coal in China as high as 1.7 trillion yuan ($272.82 billion), or about 7 percent of its GDP.
So what can the country do to combat these problems? As a first step toward tackling water pollution, China needs to rapidly reduce its reliance on coal. A more ecological alternative could be shale gas. According to the US Energy Information Administration, China has the world’s largest shale gas reserves – up to 36.1 trillion cubic meters . And China does want to increase its shale gas production to 6.5 billion cubic meters by 2015.
Natural gas emits 45 percent less CO2 per unit of energy produced compared to coal. And though hydraulic fracturing, the technique used to exploit shale gas, requires about 4.5 million gallons of water per well, it is equal to what a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant consumes in just 10 hours. Fracturing, nevertheless, could contaminate groundwater. No wonder, France banned hydraulic fracturing in 2011. The use of shale gas, therefore, may not result in cleaner water in China.
If China takes the water-energy-growth nexus into account, it would most certainly seek a more balanced energy mix and not focus solely on exploiting shale gas, for its planned rapid exploitation of shale gas may reduce its CO2 footprint but it will also exacerbate its water shortage.
Admittedly, Chinese policymakers are taking the water problem seriously. But water is still isolated from the country’s energy and growth policies. China aims to reduce its water intensity by 30 percent during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) period. It has also set new pollution-reduction targets, particularly for the agriculture sector.
The country must adopt a coordinated approach to water, which will gradually price in the external costs of shale gas or coal. Yet there is no sign of China recognizing that water has to be managed cross-sectorally. Its latest plans do say that “water is the source of life, production and ecology”, but it does not have a coordinated policy approach to manage water, energy and economic development holistically, without which it will not be able to fuel its economic growth indefinitely because it will run out of water.
Asit Biswas is distinguished visiting professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore, and founder of Third World Centre for Water Management. Julian Kirchherr is a graduate student on public policy and management at the London School of Economics (LSE) and National University of Singapore.
(China Daily 11/29/2012 page9)
- China planning ‘huge fracking industry’ (guardian.co.uk)
- You: Fixing China’s ‘drinking problem’ (edition.cnn.com)
- Video: Scarcity, Pollution and Energy – Choke Point China II (circleofblue.org)
- China facing looming water shortages (terradaily.com)
- On Xi’s to-do list: Fix China’s drinking problem (cnn.com)
- Food Supply, Fracking, and Water Scarcity Challenge China’s Juggernaut Economy (circleofblue.org)
- Water: The next challenge for China’s new leaders? (washingtonpost.com)
- No water, no power: is there enough water to fuel China’s power expansion? (journal.probeinternational.org)
The Government is to reconsider its refusal to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, the nerve-agent chemicals blamed for the collapse of bee colonies worldwide, the chief scientist at the Department of the Environment, Sir Robert Watson, told The Independent.
Sir Robert, a former head of the UN climate panel, moved quickly to begin a comprehensive re-evaluation of the Government’s stance after two new scientific studies, from Britain and France, strongly linked neonicotinoid use to bee declines.
He said the new studies, and others, would be closely analysed.
The Government has refused previous requests to consider a precautionary suspension of the chemicals, which have been banned in France and Italy, despite mounting evidence that they are harmful to bees and other pollinating insects, even in minute doses.
Bees’ role in pollinating crops is worth billions of pounds annually to global agriculture.
Even on Thursday, after the new studies were published, a spokesman for Defra said the new research did not change the Government’s position, and that “the evidence shows that neonicotinoids do not pose an unacceptable risk to honey bees”.
But yesterday Sir Robert said: “The real Defra position is the following: we will absolutely look at the University of Stirling work, the French work, and the American work that came out a couple of months ago [a study by the US government's leading bee researcher, Dr Jeffrey Pettis, which showed that exposure to microscopic doses of neonicotinoids weakened bees' resistance to disease]. We must look at this in real detail to see whether or not the current British position is correct or is incorrect.
He added: “I want to get a really careful analysis of all three papers, and I’ve asked for a briefing on some ongoing work that we’ve been doing ourselves. I want this all reassessed, very, very carefully.”
- Pesticides linked to honeybee decline (thebeerevelation.wordpress.com)
- Pesticides cause bees to lose their bearings (newscientist.com)
- Latest buzz on bee decline: Maybe it’s pesticides (mercurynews.com)
- Are bees threatened by insecticide use? New studies say yes. (+video) (csmonitor.com)
- Studies Show Why Insecticides Are Bad News For Bees (npr.org)
- Common Pesticides Harm Bees, Studies Show (huffingtonpost.com)
- Bees harmed by low levels of common pesticides (cbc.ca)
- Pesticides can have devastating impact on bees: studies (vancouversun.com)
- Pesticides can have devastating impact on bees: studies (windsorstar.com)
Australia moved to set up the world’s biggest marine park on Friday to protect vast areas of the Coral Sea off the country’s northeast coast and the site of fierce naval battles during World War II. More at http://twitter.com/#!/LearnFromNature.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said the park would cover almost 1 million square km — an area the size of France and Germany combined — and would help protect fish, pristine coral reefs and nesting sites for sea birds and the green turtle.
“The environmental significance of the Coral Sea lies in its diverse array of coral reefs, sandy cays, deep sea plains and canyons,” Burke said. “It contains more than 20 outstanding examples of isolated tropical reefs, sandy cays and islands.”
The new park would also cover ships sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea, a series of naval engagements between Japanese, American and Australian forces in 1942, considered the world’s first aircraft carrier battle.
The government will finalize what limits will be imposed on the Coral Sea marine park, which will be within Australia’s economic zone, in 90 days.
Photo credit: R. Greenway, ENN
John Lichfield in Paris of The Independent reports
After two decades of pro- and anti-wolf battles between nature-lovers, shepherds and politicians, even some supporters of the grey wolf (Canis lupus) are growing alarmed by the rapid progress of the world largest wild canine through the French countryside.
A mystery animal which has been attacking sheep in the Vosges since April has been identified by a remote-control camera as a wolf.
A handful of Italian wolves, which recolonised the French Alps around 1993, are thought to have multiplied to about 200 animals in 20 packs, reaching as far west as Cantal in Auvergne and as far north as Franche-Comté on the Franco-Swiss border, and now the Vosges. Within a decade, one expert predicted yesterday, the wolf could have ranged as far as the large forests just south of Paris.
A delegation of Alpine shepherds’ leaders and local politicians will petition the environment minister, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, this week for the right to hunt wolves at will. Under the present rules, the wolf – protected under European law – can be shot legally only by government marksmen or by shepherds trained and licensed to defend their flocks from an actual wolf attack.
In practice, since the “anti-loup” code was agreed in 2004, only four wolves have been killed in France. Shepherds’ leaders want the rules changed to allow them to organise hunting parties.
Daniel Spagnou, the mayor of Sisteron in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, wrote a blistering open letter to Ms Kosciusko-Morizet earlier this month, accusing her of “blindly following” the advice of environmentalists and allowing sheep flocks in high alpine summer pastures to be “plundered” by wolves.
The French government authorised the official hunting and shooting of a wolf in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence last weekend after 62 ewes fell into a ravine while fleeing an attack.
There have been 66 confirmed wolf attacks in France so far this year, compared with 86 in the whole of last year.
Pro-wolf groups say there is no evidence that attacks are “out of control”, although some accept that the rapid spread proves tougher action is needed. Jean-Marc Moriceau, a wolf expert and the author of Men Versus Wolves, The 2,000 Years War, said: “We should organise a wolf parliament, bringing together shepherds, ecologists and government… We need a way of protecting flocks and managing the wolf population.”
At the present rate of progress, Mr Moriceau said, wolves would reach the forests 50 miles south of Paris in 10 to 15 years.
Until the late 18th century, long after the last wolf was shot in Britain, wolves lived just across the Channel in the Pas de Calais. However, Canis lupus is not expected to knock on Britain’s door any time soon. Western and northern France is no longer wooded or wild enough to sustain them.
- Are Indian wolves a separate species? (retrieverman.wordpress.com)
- When was the gray wolf endangerd (wiki.answers.com)
- What is the Polynesian Wolf (wiki.answers.com)
- Can people keep wolves as pets (wiki.answers.com)
- Is the white wolves strongest (wiki.answers.com)
- FRANCE: Alsace-Lorraine (time.com)
- Strasbourg, France: a cultural guide (telegraph.co.uk)
- Someone’s wrong on the internet, Part II (retrieverman.wordpress.com)