Friends of Animals saves elephants at CITES: YEARS OF AID TO AFRICAN ANTI-POACHING EFFORTS PAYS OFF

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1994:

FORT LAUDERDALE––Facing 14 other African nations aligned as a block,
South Africa on November 15 withdrew a proposal to remove elephants from protection
under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
South Africa sought the downlisting in order to sell parts from elephants culled to
limit park populations. The funds, it claimed, would go to conservation. The most con-
tentious item on the agenda at the triennial two-week CITES conference, ended November
18, the downlisting was backed by Zimbabwe, Japan, Australia, the World Conservation
Union, the trophy hunting lobby, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service head Mollie Beattie,
striving to ingratiate herself with hunting groups which have privately lobbied for her ouster.
Officially, the U.S. and the European Union
were committed to abstain––leaving elephants
with few influential friends.

But they had Friends of Animals,
and after five years of arranging funding for
anti-poaching efforts in 10 poor western and
central African nations, FoA had friends in
African governments who recognized that the
South African attempt to reopen trade in ele-
phant parts would reopen conduits for trade in
poached elephant parts. As delegates from
other animal and habitat protection groups
courted the representatives of nations “that
people go to and hear about,” as FoA president
Priscilla Feral put it, Feral and staffers Bill
Clark and Betsy Swart arranged for the repre-
sentatives of the poor nations to meet first
with U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt,
then with the South American and African
regional caucuses. Babbitt at that point was
apparently ready to commit the U.S. to sup-
porting South Africa.
“We expected to have the 10 nations
we’ve been helping through Bill Clark to meet
Babbitt,” Feral said. “They brought along
four more delegations––all from black-led
African nations which are desperately trying
to save their elephants. Babbitt had to be
impressed.”
As the measure was coming to a
vote, Senecal, Zambia, Togo, and Mali rose
to speak against the proposal, with the 10 oth
ers waiting their turn to speak. South
Africa backed off. Feral departed to
fly to her terminally ill father’s bed-
side––he died before she got
there––and the Humane Society of the
U.S. immediately issued a media
statement applauding the outcome as
if it had something to do with it.
The Sudan then quietly
withdrew a proposal that would have
allowed it to sell ivory confiscated
from smugglers, another potential
opening to sellers of poached ivory.
Involved
FoA has been deeply
involved in western and central Africa
since 1989. In 1990 Clark arranged
for FoA to outfit anti-poaching patrols
with reconditioned four-wheel-drive
U.S. military surplus trucks. Formerly
the Senegal anti-poaching effort had
just one malfunctioning used jeep to
patrol an area the size of Connecticut.
“These were followed during the next
couple of years by a major infusion of
other vital equipment such as radios,
uniforms, fuel, tents, water filters,
canteens, and many other items need-
ed to mount a credible campaign.”
Because, “There hadn’t been
a year in recent decades when rangers
were not ambushed and killed by
poachers,” FoA even outfitted the
Senegal rangers with automatic rifles
and trained them in weapons use, pris-
oner handling, and first aid. FoA also
obtained an African Elephant
Conservation Act grant, to augment
the 50-member Senegal ranger corps
with 10 additional recruits. Senecal
had just 28 elephants left when the
FoA-equipped patrols took to the field.
It now has 30: two births, and no
losses to poachers in the past year.
The estimated total number of animals
poached, of all species, is down from
26,000 to 9,000; the number of fire-
fights with poachers fell from 52 in
1992 to 16 in 1994. No rangers were
killed this year, but three poachers
died, while seven were arrested and
given three years each at hard labor.
In Ghana, meanwhile, FoA
introduced the use of fuel-efficient,
land-anywhere ultralight aircraft for
anti-poaching observation. Similar
programs are underway in eight other
nations, as FoA finds the opportunity
and the funding. The CITES victory
may help open more doors and wallets.
Rhinos
Two days later, South Africa
did persuade CITES to downlist white
rhinoceroses from Appendix I, to per-
mit the sale of live white rhinos to
zoos and game parks, along with the
sale of meat and hides. South African
environment minister Dawie de
Villiers pledged that rhino horn would
not be sold––at least not apart from
live rhinos––and that live rhino sales
would be made only to what he termed
“accepted and approved buyers.”
Rhinos are poached mostly
for their horns, which in Asia are
widely believed to have aphrodisiacal
qualities.
Though a leading advocate
of “sustainable use,” including game
ranching and trophy hunting, World
Wildlife Fund director of international
wildlife policy Ginette Hemley
opposed the downlisting, which was
apparently approved as balm for feel-
ings bruised over the elephant propos-
al. “We’re concerned about the sig-
nals this may send,” Hemley said. “At
a time when we’re so close to losing
the species, anything that might
loosen protection could be trouble.”
The global white rhino popu-
ation is reportedly down to about
11,000, falling 95% in just 20 years.
Criteria
In other action, CITES
approved a World Conservation
Union proposal to set numerical crite-
ria for protected species, such as that
a population would have to consist of
fewer than 5,000 mature adults, or be
distributed over less than 3,900 square
miles, or be declining at the rate of
50% per five years. The proposal was
basic to a “sustainable use” strategy
favored by Japan, Zimbabwe, and
much of Europe, but was opposed by
the U.S., India, France, Israel, and
Hungary. Both FoA and HSUS were
active in lobbying against it.
Also rejected––reportedly
by a narrow margin in a secret bal-
lot––was a Dutch proposal to protect
Amazon mahogany, backed by the
World Wildlife Fund.
Rejected 48-16 was a pro-
posal to remove minke whales from
Appendix I, advanced by Japan,
Norway, and Zimbabwe. Proposals
to list or downlist species require two-
thirds support.
In a bit of comic relief,
bombastic Norwegian whaling tycoon
Steinar Bastesen was stripped of his
illegally imported harp seal skin vest
in the dining room of the Fort
Lauderdale Convention Center by a
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
enforcement officer.
“It was a riot,” said Feral.
Chimpanzees
The CITES meeting was an
opportunity for nations and groups to
showcase efforts to save endangered
species––and no species may be more
at risk than the Eastern lowland goril-
las and chimpanzees of Cameroon,
he Congo, and Zaire, according to
the World Society for the Protection of
Animals, which on October 25
unveiled EscAPE, a campaign
against a recent revival of illegal traf-
fic in great apes displaced by logging
and under heavy pressure from meat
hunters who supply the logging camp
kitchens. In Zaire the pressure has
recently been augmented by the arrival
of thousands of Rwandan refugees.
Details are available from WSPA at
POB 190, Boston, MA 02130.
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