Poaching & Zimbabwe turmoil may halt CITES bid to sell ivory
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2002:
SANTIAGO, BONN–The ivory and whaling industries will go
into the 12th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species on November 3 as
determined as ever to reopen legal global commerce in the body parts
of elephants and whales.
The ivory merchants and whalers are not considered likely to
get what they want.
The CITES Conference of Parties, CITES-COP for short, will
consider 54 proposals to amend the listed status of species. CITES
Appendix I now lists about 900 species which are considered
endangered, and are therefore excluded from international commerce.
Appendix II lists 4,000 animal species and 22,000 plant species which
are considered threatened. These species may be traded only by
permission of CITES.
Most controversially this year, Botswana, Namibia, South
Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have applied for permission under
Appendix II to sell their existing stocks of elephant tusk ivory and
to sell annual quotas of ivory in future years. The five southern
African nations argue that they have extinguished ivory poaching,
that their elephant populations are no longer in jeopardy, and that
they now have too many elephants for the available habitat,
resulting in frequent damage to crops and homes by elephants who
wander outside of designated reserves.
Afflicted by outbreaks of elephant poaching linked in some
cases to al Qaida militias based in Somalia and Pakistan, Kenya and
India have filed a counter proposal seeking to restore all African
elephants to Appendix I.
The five southern African nations’ applications to sell ivory
are backed by Japan, whose ivory seal-carving industry provides the
most lucrative global market for elephant tusks.
Japan has applied to downlist northern hemisphere minke
whales, in order to legally import whale meat from Norway. Japan
has also applied to downlist Bryde’s whales from the Pacific Ocean.
The latter downlisting would be of symbolic importance to the ongoing
Japanese effort to break the 1986 global moratorium on commercial
The next most controversial topics before CITES this year
were until mid-August a series of attempts by China, Cuba, some
European Union nations, and the U.S. to downlist various sea turtle
species to Appendix II. The cluster of proposals followed a Cuban
request for permission to sell stockpiles of hawksbill turtle shell.
The likelihood of any such proposals winning CITES approval receded
after the Cuban proposal was withdrawn on August 21.
The U.S. has proposed to list sea horses on Appendix II. Sea
horse populations apparently dropped by 25% to 75% in the waters of
India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam between
1990 and 1995. During those years, these five nations together
exported at least 20 million sea horses to China for use in
traditional medicines. The Chinese demand for sea horses is
reportedly growing at 10% per year.
Sea horses do not, as yet, have an appreciably large
constituency of ardent defenders–but elephants and whales do, and a
month before the November 3-15 CITES-COP meeting convenes in
Santiago, Chile, the biggest beasts on land and at sea seemed to
have political momentum in their favor.
Attempted wise-use linkage of the elephant ivory and whaling
issues was rejected on June 13 by South African minister of
environmental affairs Valli Moosa. “South Africa is opposed to the
hunting of whales,” Moosa stated unequivocally in his budget
statement to the National Council of Provinces.
The Japanese effort to downlist minke and Bryde’s whales was
rebuked in mid-September when the Convention on Migratory Species
member nations, meeting in Bonn, Germany, recommended elevating
fin, sei, and sperm whales to CITES Appendix I status. This would
reinforce the 1986 whaling moratorium. In addition, the CMS nations
recommended CITES Appendix II status for Antarctic minke whales,
Bryde’s whales, and pygmy right whales.
The Japanese research whaling fleet in 2002 killed 440
Antarctic minke whales. A separate expedition to the northwestern
Pacific reportedly killed 194 minke whales, 39 sei whales, and
unknown numbers of Bryde’s whales and sperm whales, having targeted
50 and 10.
An advisory body to CITES, the CMS was formed in 1979 by the
U.N. Environment Program. Norway is a member, but Japan is not.
Speaking in opposition to the strengthened protections for whales,
but recognizing the apparent unanimity of the other members, Norway
accepted the passage of the recommendations by consensus.
Anticipating imminent access to the Japanese market,
Norwegian whalers killed a record 634 minke whales this year in
coastal waters, and have a 2004 quota of 711.
Unlike about two-thirds of the whales killed by Japan, the
whales killed off Norway would not be protected by the proposed CITES
uplistings. Thus the proposed CITES uplistings might actually
increase Japanese demand for Norwegian whale meat.
Meanwhile, with Keiko, the orca star of the Free Willy!
film series, cavorting daily in the Skaalvik fjord, charming the
Norwegian public, Norwegian politicians had already learned that
favoring whale-killing is no longer the popular stance it once was.
Keiko swam 900 miles from his rehabilitation pen in Iceland
to Skaalvik fjord during July and August. At least two prominent
Norwegians–a politician and a scientist– promptly argued that Keiko
should be killed as a purported threat to nearby salmon pens, but
were drowned out by furious countrymen.
In mid-October, Norwegian officials were reportedly helping
the Humane Society of the U.S., Keiko’s official custodians since
June, to find safe harbor for him this winter.
The Miami Seaquarium meanwhile applied to the U.S. National
Marine Fisheries Service for permission to capture Keiko and fly him
to Miami as an intended companion for Lolita, that last orca still
alive in captivity who was caught in Puget Sound. After Norway
indicated that it would not authorize the capture, regardless of
whether NMFS did, NMFS on October 3 returned the capture application
to the Seaquarium as “incomplete.”
The CMS also urged Appendix I listings for great white
sharks, among the rarest of many shark species jeopardized by the
Asian hunger for shark fin soup; a unique Tibetan camel population
discovered in 1999 within a former Chinese nuclear test site; and
Ganges and Indus River dolphins, native to India, Pakistan,
Bangladesh, and Nepal.
Threatened by pollution and dam-building, which can isolate
pods of dolphins too small to be viable alone, Ganges and Indus
River dolphins were included on the first known Asian protected
species list, promulgated by the Indian emperor Asoka in 246 B.C.
The CMS proposed an Appendix II listing for the heavily
hunted Saiga antelope of the Eurasian steppes. UNEP Division of
Environmental Conventions deputy director Robert Hepworth told news
media that, “The hunting pressure on these animals has gone far
beyond what the populations can sustain.”
In addition, the CMS passed resolutions favoring measures to
reduce the numbers of albatrosses and petrels killed by longline
fishing, and to reduce bird losses caused by wind farms and power
The CMS meeting in Bonn was only the latest of a series of
high-powered international caucuses during the six months preceding
the anticipated Santiago showdown.
Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia were allowed to sell
stockpiled ivory to Japan in 1997, but in 2000 withdrew their
application to sell more, after outbreaks of poaching indicated that
as other nations had feared, the resumption of limited legal traffic
in ivory had become a cover for expanded illegal traffic.
All 13 nations participating in the first Asian Elephant
Specialist Group meeting in five years in May 2002 co-signed a joint
resolution asking Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia,
Zimbabwe, and Japan to again withdraw their application to resume
ivory exports and imports.
“Customs officials can’t tell Asian ivory from African
ivory,” Wildlife Trust of India executive director Vivek Menon told
Luke Hunt of Agence France-Presse.
Pointing out that legal ivory sells for about five times the
current price of poached ivory, Menon charged that dealers with
legal stocks are hoarding them to keep the prices up. Menon said 180
metric tons are stored in Japan, 200 in China, and 220 each in Hong
Kong and Macau. The Japanese government meanwhile anticipated legal
consumption of only 20 to 30 metric tons per year, even if the
African proposal to sell ivory was accepted by CITES.
Most current sales of ivory items involve ivory of illegal or
undocumented origin. Much of the traffic goes through Thailand,
where investigators from the Kenyan group Save The Elephants
discovered 88,000 of the 106,000 total ivory products they found
offered for sale in a survey of tourist markets in eight Asian
Said two-time Kenya Wildlife Service director Richard Leakey,
in an interview with BBC News Online in Nairobi, “It is entirely
plausible that 80% of wild Asian elephants have been lost in the last
Leakey attributed the resurgence of poaching in Southeast
Asia to the rising affluence of China. “In 1989, China was a poor
county,” he explained, “but it has grown phenomenally. Since the
earliest emperors, ivory has been a mark of value in China. Now,
in effect, you have a hundred million emperors, with traditional
ivory carvers on their doorstep in places like Hong Kong, creating a
demand fed by illegal supply. Whether or not there is a trade ban,”
Leakey continued, “is irrelevant. There is a huge new market. That
means Africa is going to have to protect elephants effectively again:
more money, more people, more guns.
“I don’t think the government in Beijing wants to be
responsible for the extinction of elephants,” Leakey added. “The
Chinese have a credible environmental record. Tell them the facts.
Get Chinese non-governmental organizations, which are good, to
create the public attitudes that made such a difference in the west.
A large part of the success of the ban on the international ivory
trade introduced in 1989 was not just on paper,” Leakey reminded.
“It was a change in public attitudes. That was why the bottom fell
out of the trade.
“The conservation community must reach out to China,” Leakey
finished. “As to the poachers, I’d go back to my old policies: hit
Under Leakey, the Kenya Wildlife Service vigorously pursued
the shoot-to-kill policy for rangers who met armed poachers that
Kenya president Daniel arap Moi declared in 1984, four years before
Leakey was appointed.
Zimbabwean president Robert Mug-abe also issued a
shoot-to-kill order to anti-poaching forces in 1984– perhaps the
last time that Kenyan and Zimbabwean wildlife policies coincided.
Shoot-to-kill except in defense of human life fell from
political acceptability in the early 1990s, as human rights monitors
pointed out that such policies amount to execution of suspects
without a trial, encourage poachers to arm themselves more heavily
and routinely kill wildlife rangers, and tend to hit the poorest and
least experienced poachers the hardest, while professionals often
Even as Leakey spoke, however, mercenary anti-poaching
efforts were resurfacing after a decade of movement away from
extra-legal measures, toward strengthening African institutions of
Reported James Astill of the British newspaper The Guardian,
“An anti-poaching unit led by a former South African army officer and
funded by two foreign conservation groups recently attacked two gangs
of poachers in the Central African Republic, killing one man. The
unit,” jointly funded according to Astill by the U.S.-based African
Rainforest and Rivers Conservation Organization and the Dutch-based
Hans Wilmoeth Wildlife Foundation, “consists of three Central
African presidential guards, commanded by ‘David Bryant,’ an alias
used by a 50-year-old former officer of the South Africa and
Continued Astill, “According to Karl Amman,” a Kenyan
wildlife photographer who Astill said coordinated the operation, “in
five years a Congolese gang of former soldiers killed up to 400
elephants along the Central African Republic border with the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“After they killed the animals, they turned on the people,
killing, raping, and looting villages. It was time to go after
them,” Amman told Astill.
“After Bryant attacked their village base in Adama, in the
southern Central African Republic, four of the poachers fled into
the Congo,” wrote Astill. “As prearranged by Amman, they were
arrested there by the rebel force of Jean-Pierre Bamba, which
controls northern Congo. Two were arrested by the anti-poaching
unit, and one man escaped.”
The African Rainforest and Rivers Conservation Organization,
not previously known to ANIMAL PEOPLE, turned out to be directed by
one Erik Lindquist, who said his home base is in Jackson, Wyoming.
An article by Tom Clynes in the September 24 edition of the
online magazine National Geographic Adventure identified AR&RCO as a
project of family practitioner Bruce Hayse, M.D., a Jackson
resident since 1983, well-known for conservation-related
philanthropy. Clynes said Hayse “has contributed about $130,000…to
recruit and train an anti-poaching force of 400 local men, who will
protect 60,000 square miles of wilderness, equivalent to the size of
Florida. Also planned,” Clynes wrote, “are scientific studies,
road repair, school and medical dispensary construction, and
ecological education. Hayse estimates that the project will need
about $600,000 per year to keep it going. ”
Amman was known to ANIMAL PEOPLE as contributor of guest
columns about the bushmeat traffic in March 1996 and September 2001.
“Bryant” was also a familiar name, from a brief and unpleasant
telephone encounter in October 2000 during which he sought help in
fundraising to support covert operations in the name of stopping
poaching, and was informed that ANIMAL PEOPLE exists to report the
news about animal protection, not to promote covert operations by
anyone for any reason.
Former Sea Shepherd Conservation Society operations director
Lisa DiStefano said she had referred Bryant to ANIMAL PEOPLE and said
she also gave “Bryant” his current identity. DiStefano said he was
formerly known as “Brian Davies,” no relation to the retired founder
of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Crosschecks with people who presumably should have met
“Bryant” as “Davies,” based on biographical data relayed by
DiStefano, produced no confirmation that any such person existed.
Anti-poaching mercenary work, popular in the 1980s, fell
into disrepute after London Independent reporter Stephen Ellis in
January 1991 exposed the failure of Operation Lock. Formed by
longtime World Wildlife Fund international president Prince Bernhardt
of the Netherlands and WWF Africa program director John Hanks,
Operation Lock officially had no link to WWF. It worked closely with
covert units of the South African military– which simultaneously
funded covert operations in nearby nations through elephant and rhino
poaching. As Ellis revealed, it “collapsed with funds and horn
This history enabled Zimbabwe to claim in 1999 that resurgent
poaching in a region where Operation Lock was active was “sponsored
by some non-governmental organizations and countries that want to
discredit Zimbabwe” before CITES-COP 2000.
In July 2002, the would-be ivory exporting nations sought to
counter the influence of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group at a
meeting of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community in
Kasane, Bots-wana, funded by Safari Club International.
The object was to try to enlist more nations in support of
ivory sales. Participants in addition to the would-be ivory exporters
included Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Tanzania–but five
other national delegations stayed home, and the strongest statements
endorsing the sale of ivory reportedly came from the Botswana-based
Kalahari Conservation Society, the Namibia Nature Foundation, and
Chris Weaver, a Namibia-based representative of WWF.
Weaver’s position was consistent with the pro-consumptive use
policies of WWF, in effect since the organization was formed by
prominent trophy hunters in 1961. Yet in endorsing ivory sales to
support conservation, Weaver appeared to contradict statements
issued in May by WWF communications manager Sarah Black.
Then, after Zambian deputy minister for tourism,
environment, and natural resources Cleaver Silavwe asserted that
selling ivory would benefit conservation, Black responded to Lewis
Mwanangombe of the Africa Eye News Service that, “Lifting the ban
will only encourage the illegal trade in ivory and promote elephant
poaching. Funds for increased conservation,” Black said, “can be
raised without placing the existence of a species in jeopardy.”
Recent events tend to belie any complacency about ivory
poaching and trafficking being very well under control anywhere:
* Four Somali poachers on March 28 killed 10 out of a family
of 11 elephants in Tsavo National Park, Kenya. Kenya Wildlife
Service rangers killed the ringleader in a shoot-out, and recovered
18 tusks, an automatic rifle, 253 rounds of ammo, and some
rocket-propelled grenades. The survivors fled, but returned later
to Tsavo with 36 men in all, three of whom were killed in a another
shoot-out, Agence France-Presse reported in late July.
On their way to Tsavo, one band of about 15 Somalis killed
two elephants and six ostriches in the Boni Forest. Returning, they
killed a mother and baby elephant. A surviving baby was taken to the
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage in Nairobi National
Park, and was “adopted” by the U.N. Security Council, on a motion
by British U.N. ambassador Jeremy Greenstock.
“It is not just peace and security in Africa, but also
wildlife for whom the Security Council is, at least temporarily,
concerned,” Greenstock explained.
* Liu Huasheng of Hong Kong in April drew life in prison for
smuggling 295 elephant tusks reportedly worth $8.9 million.
* Posing as an illegal ivory buyer, Wildlife Protection
Society of India executive director Belinda Wright in mid-May helped
Forest Department staff in Thiruvanantha-puram, India, to arrest
four suspected major ivory dealers within two weeks.
* Authorities in Limpopo, South Africa, on May 24 arrested
Andover Game Park chief nature conservation officer Goodwill Mahumane
for allegedly stealing and poaching rhinos and Cape buffalo. Limpopo
tourism director Thjaba Mufamadi also acknowledged trouble with “Some
hunters who promise to pay villagers to break the fence” surrounding
Kruger National Park “so that animals [such as elephants] can escape
and be hunted as problem animals.”
* China on May 27 brought to trial in Beijing 10 men who
allegedly smuggled 14 metric tons of African elephant ivory worth
$70.5 million through the Beijing Capital Airport in 1999-2000. One
man, Qin Zonghai, was still in possession of 12 metric tons of
ivory when arrested in March 2001.
* Poachers killed and detusked two elephants circa July 1 at
the Laikipia ranch housing the Galmann Memorial Foundation, founded
by I Dreamed of Africa author Kuki Galmann. Ken Opala of the
Nairobi-based newspaper The Nation in August 2001 identified Galmann
as a “key player” in the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, an association of
game ranchers seeking amendments to Kenyan law to allow the
resumption of trophy hunting. Recreational hunting was outlawed in
Kenya in 1977, in part because some ivory poaching was conducted
under the guise of trophy hunting.
In May 2002 Galmann wrote to ANIMAL PEOPLE to object to being
identified with a pro-hunting faction, but was not heard from again
after ANIMAL PEOPLE noted the public positions of some of her
associates in the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, and asked if she would
clearly state on the record that she opposes reopening sport hunting
* Customs officers in Singapore in mid-July seized 532 raw
tusks and nearly 41,000 carved ivory seals from a cargo en route from
Zambia to Japan. Hong Kong merchant Peter Wang was arrested in
Lusaka, Zambia, for allegedly arranging the deal. Believed to have
been stolen from the “Zambian government stockpile, the ivory passed
through Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa before being intercepted.
“This case must have involved official corruption in three
African nations as well as Japan,” observed Richard Leakey.
* One of four white rhino bulls who were recently introduced
to the Royal Zulu Biosphere near Empangani by KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife
was poached and dehorned circa August 1. As rhinos tend to be more
closely guarded than elephants, the incident demonstrated that
elephants were also vulnerable.
* Customs officers in Shanghai, China, on September 25
seized 700 ivory pieces weighing three metric tons that were smuggled
from Kenya, disguised as lumber.
Acknowledging that ivory poaching had slipped out of control,
Zambia asked Britain for help. In early August 40 volunteers from
the British Army and Royal Air Force reportedly flew to Zambia to
begin anti-poaching work under Major Nick Weller, of the Royal
Electrical & Medical Engineers.
Zimbabwe, however, with the worst problems among the
nations seeking to export ivory, conceded nothing. The 92 elephants
poached in 2001 were barely 1% of the claimed 89,000 elephants in
Zimbabwe, officials said. They also said only 117 elephants were
poached, total, 1996-2000, and that just 23 were poached in the
first eight months of 2002.
Whether any of this was credible was another matter.
At each major Zimbabwean elephant habitat, the elephant population
purportedly exceeds the carrying capacity by a factor of two-plus:
45,000 at Hwange National Park, 25,000 at Gonarezhou. If the
official counts are inflated twofold, in theory the whole population
of each locale could be poached or culled.
Voiceless Victims, a group representing Zimbabwean game
ranchers who protested against land invasions by so-called “war
veterans” at the World Summit for Sustainable development in
Johannesburg in August, estimated that as many as 600,000 animals
have been poached since the invasions began in 2000. Undertaken by
supporters of the 21-year-old Robert Mugabe regime in the name of
land reform, the invasions seek to drive farmers of European
ancestry off of their property, to facilitate redistribution to
people of African descent. The invasions were reinforced in
midsummer by a Mugabe order to farmers whose land is slated for
redistribution to cease all farming activity. That order, combined
with prolonged drought, has pushed much of Zimbabwe to the verge of
Pets and livestock are commonly killed for revenge and
intimidation in connection with the land invasions. But much of the
killing appears to be for food.
Wildlife Producers Association spokesperson Willy Herbst
recently told news media that 33 former game ranchers reported losing
1,900 animals during the first 17 months of the crisis. After that,
patrolling to tally up the mayhem was often deemed too dangerous to
continue. Among the dead animals were as many as 30 highly
endangered black rhinos. Herbst cited specific tolls for 10 other
species –but elephants were never mentioned.