U.S. Sending Mixed Messages On Illegal Ivory Trade

Ivory Law Falls Short On Trophy Imports

With many species of wildlife currently threatened by extinction, including the African elephant, the White House announced on Tuesday a ban on the sale of ivory within the USA. The executive order, signed by President Barack Obama, is part of a plan aiming to crack down on the trafficking of wildlife in general in the United States. The move is being hailed by animal conservationists as a “significant milestone” in the worldwide fight against poaching of the pachyderms.

poaching elephants for ivoryThe importation of ivory has been banned in the USA since 1989. However, the new plan, which is part of the National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking, aims to go further, by banning the sale of the majority of ivory products in the country altogether, as well as limiting sport-hunted trophies to a maximum of two per hunter each year.

The problem is that despite the ban on importation, ivory products can still be found in antique and art stores in most cities across the USA, according to senior administration officials. One official, requesting anonymity, told the media that the only place to see the majesty of these items is on actual living elephants or rhinoceros, in their native habitat.

The new initiative comes as soaring ivory prices have attracted increased trafficking, mainly through criminal groups. Reportedly ivory sells these days for $1,500 per pound.

In the Africa of the past, millions of elephants used to roam the plains, but with around 35,000 elephants lost every year to poachers, the total number of elephants remaining is down to around 500,000 or possibly even less.

Dame Daphne Sheldrick is a conservationist who says that the demands could wipe out the elephant species in about 10 to 15 years. She estimates that one of these magnificent creatures is killed every 15 minutes by poachers in Africa.

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To give an example of numbers remaining, Kenya reportedly had 170,000 elephants 30 years ago, but now has only an estimated 30,000 remaining. In Gabon, alone, over a third of the country’s forest elephants have been lost in the last ten years. Reportedly in the Minkebe National Park, on the border with Cameroon, losses are even higher, with around 15,000 of the remaining 22,000 killed by poachers.

Hence the urgency is reaching a peak and in an attempt to stem the flow of ivory in illegal and other sales, the White House has now announced the ban of the sale of elephant ivory in the USA.

In 2013, Tanzania adopted a shoot to kill policy when dealing with suspected poachers.  Dubbed “Operation Terminate,” the policy apparently was working well and numbers of elephants killed was cut, but the policy was dropped due to a claim of human rights abuses in the country.

There are a few exceptions, however, to the new rules.  For instance, if sellers can prove that their item for sale is over 100 years old, this would be allowed.

wildlife conservation Tanzania

 

Also of interest is that not only elephants and rhinos will be protected by the new initiative. Animals ranging from tigers to turtles, which are often slaughtered for their hides or other parts for sale by criminal syndicates, will also come under its protection.

The video included below gives details of a recent massacre by poachers in Kenya, where an entire family of these magnificent creatures were gunned down for their ivory. Warning, the video is graphic and may upset sensitive viewers.

Officials also announced that in 2014, besides the ban of the sale of elephant ivory in the USA by the White House, Congress has given an additional $3 million to enforce the wildlife trafficking laws.

For more information about saving endangered species and endangered ecosystems in East Africa, please visit http://sacredseedlings.com/east-africa-projects/

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting forest conservation, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife conservation through its subsidiary–Sacred Seedlings. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.

Africa Lost At Least 745 Rhinos To Poachers in 2012

Rhino Poaching Up Drastically

Almost three percent of Africa’s rhino population was killed by poachers in 2012. The trend appears to be rising even faster. Experts predict that if poaching continues to increase at this rate, rhino populations could be wiped out within 10 years.

“Well-organized and well-funded crime syndicates are continuing to feed the growing black market with rhino horn,” says Mike Knight, Chairman of the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group, a group of rhino experts within IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. “Over the past few years, consumer use of rhino horn has shifted from traditional Asian medicine practices to new uses, such as to convey status. High levels of consumption – especially the escalating demand in Vietnam – threaten to soon reverse the considerable conservation gains achieved over the last two decades.”

wildlife conservation Africa

There are currently 5,055 Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and 20,405 White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) in Africa. Although these numbers have increased slightly over the last two years, there is no room for complacency. In 2012, at least 745 rhinos were poached throughout Africa – the highest number in two decades – with a record 668 rhinos killed in South Africa alone. In 2013, one rhino has been lost to poaching every 11 hours since the beginning of the year – a rate that is higher than the average for 2012.

Illegal trade in rhino horn is coordinated by well-organized criminal syndicates which transport the horns primarily to Vietnam and China. Mozambique has also been identified as a key driver of poaching activities, with poachers making cross-border raids into the South African Kruger National Park, home to the world’s largest rhino population. Mozambique is also a major transit point for illegal horn to Asia.

IUCN experts call upon the international community – especially the key consumer and transit states such as Vietnam, China, Laos and Mozambique – to urgently address the crisis by strengthening and enforcing regional and international trade laws, particularly in relation to rhino horn.

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“The rhino community is encouraged by the signing of a recent Memorandum of Understanding between South Africa and Viet Nam to address the rhino poaching epidemic as well as other conservation issues,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. “However, it needs to be reinforced with tangible government action on both sides. International and regional collaboration needs to be strengthened, as does sharing of information, intelligence and expertise to address wildlife crime issues.”

Updated facts on the rhino crisis come on the eve of the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that will take place from March 3-14 in Bangkok, Thailand. Illegal rhino horn trade will be one of the many issues discussed at the meeting. http://www.iucn.org/?uNewsID=12538

public relations firm and public affairs firm Denver and Phoenix

Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting forest conservation, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and wildlife conservation through its subsidiary–Sacred Seedlings. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.