From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1997:

HARARE––The 10-year global ivory
trafficking ban fell on June 19, as Zimbabwe,
Botswana, and Namibia won approval from the
1997 Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species triennial in Harare,
Zimbabwe, to sell 59 tons of elephant ivory to
Japan in early 1999, after 18 months of refinement
of safeguards supposed to prevent the sale
from providing cover to ivory poachers.
The sale, involving about a third of
the ivory stockpiled by the three southern
African nations, is the first legal crack in the
ban, imposed by CITES in 1989. The ban
braked the collapse of the African elephant population
from 1.3 million circa 1980 to just
600,000 a decade later.

Anticipating the CITES verdict, India
and Uganda publicized plans to increase their
anti-elephant poaching efforts.
In other key CITES actions, a South
African proposal to resume the sale of rhino
horn failed by just one vote. Cuba won a
majority, 55-49, in seeking permission to
export the shells of endangered hawksbill turtles
to Japan, but failed to get the two-thirds
support needed to remove hawksbills from
“most protected status” on CITES Appendix I.
Japan blocked by one vote a U.S. proposal to
form a CITES marine fish panel, as a first step
toward protecting fisheries, and lost a bid to
“delink” CITES and the International Whaling
Commission, which takes precedence in whale
protection. Japan also lost ballots seeking to
downlist grey whales, minke whales, and
Bryde’s whales––but the margin, 61-47, was
much closer than in 1994, when a similar proposal
drew just 16 votes.
The U.S. dropped a request for a vote
to regulate traffic in Amazon bigleaf mahogany
when Brazil agreed to start monitoring exports.
A U.S. proposal to add the 12 species of
American map turtle to CITES Appendix II,
restricting trade, failed by one vote, after
which the U.S. withdrew a proposal to list the
alligator snapping turtle on Appendix II.
Among well-known animals, only
Eastern European sturgeon species, added to
Appendix II, came out of the triennial with
more protection than they had going in.
Opposition to the ivory sale was split
on June 11 when African Wildlife Foundation
president Michael Wright, leaving AWF senior
elephant expert Cynthia Moss back in London,
England, was quoted on the front page of the
Zimbabwean Financial Gazette as favoring a
compromise offered by the World Wildlife
Fund that would have approved downlisting
African elephants but with a temporary “zero
quota” for the ivory traffic. The proposal
enabled WWF to further its doctrine that endangered
species should be “sustainably used” in
commerce, while maintaining an image of
opposition to wildlife trafficking. It resembled

the WWF-brokered deal that in 1994 won the
creation, on paper, of the Southern Oceans
Whale Sanctuary in trade for International
Whaling Commission approval of an agreement
in principle that commercial whaling
should resume whenever the IWC scientific
committee agrees as to how many whales can
be butchered without jeopardizing species.
“Wright is a lawyer and thought he
could broker a clever deal,” Friends of
Animals president Priscilla Feral told A N IMAL
PEOPLE. “By the time we got done
with him at breakfast, he had backed off, but
the damage was done,” as Zimbabwean officials
touted Wright’s remarks as an admission
that elephants in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and
Namibia are adequately protected.
Hunting vs. tourism
Countering the official Zimbabwean
position was a June 17 e-mail statement from
Susan and John McMillan, residents of
Zimbabwe for 40 years, who argued that the
government elephant count of 66,000 is twice
too high. “Also,” they wrote, “there are now
very few large tuskers. Most of the animals
we see on our regular trips into the Zambesi
valley are immature, and almost all have been
wounded to some degree by poachers. The
McMillans also challenged the Zimbabwean
government claim that rural peasants gain by
promotion of elephant hunting. “If there was
less corruption and waste of resources,” they
argued, “there would be other means to
improve the lot of the rural poor.”
Elaborated Feral, “Zimbabwe’s
CAMPFIRE [rural development] program generates
an estimated $2 million in revenues a
year, of which 90% is produced by the safari
hunting of 171 elephants. The 171 hunters
need relatively little in the way of transport,
hotels, and other services. Thus the money
they spend doesn’t spread very far––a few
showcase villages with new clinics, and that’s
it. On the other hand, 667,000 tourists visited
Kenya’s national parks last year, and contributed
the greater portion of that nation’s
$500 million tourism-related income. Large
numbers of people visit Kenya to see living
elephants in their natural habitat, for Kenya
banned all hunting more than 20 years ago.”
Elephant hunting and photo-oriented tourism
are not compatible, Feral explained, since
“Hunted elephants are wary, and usually
escape before people can approach. Many
tourists simply won’t pay their vacation dollars
to people who kill elephants,” she added.
But the issues were not decided in
open debate. “According to confidential talks
between FoA and a number of African and
Asian delegates,” FoA staffer Bill Dollinger
wrote to The New York Times on behalf of
Feral, “orders were given [from national capitols] to support the downlisting of elephants,
despite the near universal reluctance of
wildlife conservation professionals within the
delegations. David Brackett of Canada,”
holding the gavel during the balloting,
“allowed stalling tactics while votes were garnered
for the original proposal by South Africa
to resume trade in ivory. When this proposal
was defeated by three votes, it was sent to a
working group. The chair then forced a vote
on the amended proposal, shutting off debate
against protest by Israel, Niger, Liberia,
Guinea, Chad, Kenya, Ghana,” and other
African nations opposed to downlisting.
A dozen secret ballots, up from just
one at CITES 1994, enabled delegates to vote
without public accountability. The
Zimbabwean, Namibian, and Botswanan
ivory export proposal, involving three ballots,
won the two-thirds majority requisite for passage
because from 20 to 24 of the 138 CITES
member nations abstained from each ballot,
with only 21-23 opposed––well under the
number whose delegates pretended opposition.
Heading the U.S. CITES delegation,
deputy interior secretary Don Barry on the eve
of the triennial issued a statement against the
ivory sale, but took no visible role in trying to
stop it. The Bill Clinton/Albert Gore administration
strongly favors “sustainable development,”
including U.S. subsidies to CAMPFIRE
amounting to $29 million since the elephant
ivory trading moratorium took effect.
Ivory trafficking advocates were
embarrassed but not deterred by International
Fund for Animal Welfare videotapes purporting
to show continued elephant poaching in
Zimbabwe. IFAW attorney Jared Blumenfeld
told media that despite the ivory trade ban,
$90,000 worth of Zimbabwean ivory has been
bootlegged into Japan this year alone.
FoA special investigator Carroll
Cox, formerly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service in a similar capacity, told ANIMAL
P E O P L E that one favored smuggling route
runs through Hawaii––and showed Feral in
person the extensive stocks of ivory curios in
Hawaiian souvenir shops that serve mainly
Japanese “tourists.”
Cox alleged that an even more
important route for the traffic may involve
Hawaiian fishing boats that offload fish from
Japanese deep-sea driftnetting vessels, hauling
the catch to Hawaii for freezing and shipment.
If ivory and money changes hands at sea, as
well as fish, no one sees it.
Of the fish, about 80% go to Japan;
most of the rest to the Hawaiian domestic market.
Called “transshipping,” the practice of
offloading enables the Japanese deep-sea fleet
to spend more time at sea, enables Japanese
consumers to get fresher fish, and gets around
the 1950 Nicholson Act, which barred foreign
fishing vessels from using U.S. ports.
Cox faxed to ANIMAL PEOPLE
extensive documentation of transshipping of
dried shark fin, apparently obtained by methods
not permitted in U.S. waters.
For animal protection organizations,
the chief lesson from CITES 1997 may be that
they need to strengthen their Third World
knowledge and influence, before the October
IWC meeting if possible and certainly well
before the 1999 CITES session in Indonesia,
also likely to prove a hostile venue.
This requires offsetting the influential
Japanese Third World presence by capably
staffing and heavily subsidizing animal protection
group offices in nations with little or no
fundraising potential. Presently, a handful of
IFAWand World Society for the Protection of
Animals representatives and Brazilian-based
Jose Truda Palazzo of the International
Wildlife Coalition appear to be the only personnel
representing U.S.-based animal rights
groups who actually reside in either Asia or
Latin America; none live in Africa. Newly
hired Andrew Rowan of the Humane Society
of the U.S., born and raised in South Africa,
is apparently the only major U.S. animal
rights/welfare group representative holding an
African affairs portfolio who ever has lived in

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