Archive for November, 2011


Friday, November 18th, 2011

After my last Rhino Blog (and the many comments – for which thanks)….. MORE RHINO NEWS!

So, a big day in Hong Kong (Monday 14th November): Customs’ officials intercepted over 758 ivory chopsticks, 127 carved ivory bracelets AND 33 rhino horns, weighing over 86 kilos. Astronomical prices and ludicrous claims that rhino horn cures cancer (from Vietnam) mean poaching pressure on wild rhino all over the world is relentless. Some say, let’s legalise the trade (particularly those who “own” rhino in southern Africa and who would stand to make millions of dollars). They contend that they could meet demand in China and that this would reduce poaching.

However, this idea is nothing new and legalisation of other high-value wildlife products in the past have completely failed to protect the species concerned. Attempts to meet the demand for ivory, for example, have been an unmitigated disaster. Since the 100 tonne ivory stockpile sale in 2009 to China and Japan, poaching levels have been distressingly high, nearly 30 tonnes of illegal ivory seized so far this year alone (so the full extent of the trade is likely to be four or five times higher), and the price of illegal ivory has shot up to around US$1,500 a kilo. No sign of demand being met there!

Pro-trade exponents claim that they can provide a sustainable supply of ‘ranched’ horn from their rhino and that this will reduce pressure on wild populations. That’s not what tiger conservationists believe. China has thousands of captive tigers whose ‘owners’ are pushing hard for the legalisation of trade (obviously to make a killing in more ways than one), again claiming that this will reduce pressure on wild tigers. However, conservation professionals and wildlife trade specialists believe that the poaching community will always target wild tigers because they are a ‘premium product’. I think that’s exactly what will happen with rhino.

Two measures are urgently needed:

1. Far more effective and well-resourced rhino protection in wild rhino range States with co-ordinated intelligence gathering and law enforcement across borders; and
2. A major public re-education programme in consumer countries such as China, supported at the highest possible political level.

Last year, Vladimir Putin hosted a Tiger Summit in St Petersburg to generate the international political backing for a global mission not just to save the world’s wild tigers but to double the number of wild tigers in the next ten years or so.

What about a Rhino Summit to deliver the political muscle, financial commitment and enforcement effort to turn this situation around?

Please forward far and wide if you can!

Blogging off


What is it going to take?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Dear Friends,

Sometimes I ask myself ‘what is it going to take’? What is it going to take before the world really sits up and takes notice of the often irreversible damage we are doing to our planet? Will it take the extinction of a large mammal perhaps?

Well, the rhino could be an interesting case study. Today’s news that the West African black rhino has now officially been declared extinct, combined with a recent announcement that the last Javan rhino may have been poached in 2010, alongside ongoing mass killings of white and black rhino across East and Southern Africa and serious pressure on the Indian one-horned rhino, all paint a bleak picture for the species.

Declarations by high ranking officials in Vietnam that rhino horn can “cure cancer” have been blamed for the dramatic escalation in poaching. The black market price of rhino horn is now so high it is apparently more valuable than cocaine.

What is clear to me, is that rhino range States cannot be expected to protect their rhinos on their own. Despite best efforts by many range States, the organised criminal element and sophisticated equipment of the ruthless criminals involved in the illegal trade, who undoubtedly think the value of the horn means that poaching is a lucrative business and a risk worth taking, mean that the war is being lost in many areas.

Therefore, if we are to protect the remaining rhino populations, we have to curb the demand for their horn. Experts and officials have asked Asian “consumer” countries to make a stand, declare that rhino horn is NOT a cancer cure. But so far, no dramatic, meaningful action has been taken by these consumer countries. In my view, leadership has to come from the top on this issue. When the Dalai Lama told his followers that it was no longer to acceptable to use big cat skins in religious ceremonies, the skins were burned and their use immediately stopped. When will the heads of China and Vietnam do the same for rhino?

Born Free and others are continuing to press for stronger measures to be taken by the international community, and to fight against recent (extremely worrying) calls for a legalisation of rhino horn trade, but the future is far from certain. So far this year more than 350 rhinos have been poached in South Africa alone. Which brings me back to my original question – what is it going to take before the world sits up and takes notice?

Blogging off,

Will Travers


Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Bringing giant pandas to Edinburgh zoo (on loan) as part of a deal costing, reputedly, £6,000,000 or more, is madness.

Spending vast sums (maybe as much as £700,000) feeding them Dutch bamboo over the next 10 years is utterly ridiculous (just think of the food miles as well).

The public have been ‘bamboozled’ into believing that for some inexplicable reason this iconic species belongs in Edinburgh – it does not! Panda conservation should take place in the wild, in China (where both giant pandas and bamboo occur naturally).

If Edinburgh has panda cash to spare, that’s where it should be invested.

Blogging off!


See this article in The Independent for more.

Incomprehensible, shocking, total madness!

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Did you see the Louis Theroux BBC2 programme “America’s Most Dangerous Pets”?  It is still available on iPlayer for UK citizens here (until Nov 9th).

Quite frankly I feel almost unable to comment – watch it and make up your own mind!

But, coming hard on the heels of the ‘Ohio Massacre’ that took place on Wednesday 19th October where the owner of a private collection (not open to the public) of over 50 large and dangerous wild animals (lions, tigers, bears, wolves, primates) opened the cages and then shot himself – all bar six of the animals were subsequently shot by the police – now is the time for action if ever there was one. Watch the CNN report here.

Theroux’s programme confirmed in my mind that the US has lost the plot when it comes to commonsense and keeping wild animals as ‘pets’.

My only hope now is that this avalanche of latest ‘exotic pet news’ will compel law-makers in each State to review their legislative provisions and introduce, as a priority, measures to bring this bizarre, frequently cruel and highly dangerous situation to an end.  My colleagues at Born Free USA are working with the Ohio legislature to fix the state’s deficient laws and will continue to do so across the country.

As I said on CNN recently, responsible legislation should be there to protect wild animals from people, people from wild animals – and people from themselves.

Blogging off