Archive for July, 2012

Trade in Ivory – No Thanks!

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Earlier in the week – on Tuesday, which seems like an age ago – Dr Rowan Martin, a longtime advocate of legal ivory trade, submitted a report on a Decision-Making Mechanism for future ivory trade.

However, the report, which contained many flaws (inaccuracies, personal opinions and a proposal which may even be illegal under international law concerning the establishment of an ivory cartel) was roundly criticised by many Parties here at the Standing Committee including the USA, EU, Kenya, India, Israel, Central African Republic, Congo and more.

In light of these criticisms it was decided on Tuesday that a small group would go away and come back with recommendations as to what to do with this $50,000 report!

Today, Botswana, in consultation with the UK and others including Kenya, reported the following to the CITES Standing Committee:

1. The CITES Secretariat will invite further comments from the stakeholders who have already worked on the study.

2. Comments must be submitted by 31 August 2012

3. On the basis of the study and responses received, the Secretariat will review the information and prepare a document consolidating all comments for review by the same stakeholders and Chair of the Standing Committee.

5. Chair should take all comments into account and prepare a document for consideration of the next Conference of the Parties to CITES (Thailand in March 2013)

6. The report of the Chair of the Standing Committee should make it clear that it does not necessarily represent the views of all members of the Standing Committee.

7. The responses of the stakeholders will be made public where they have given permission.

Kenya spoke immediately after Botswana reminding the Standing Committee that all documents must be translated into French to ensure that the majority of African Elephant Range States (the Francophones) can fully participate in the process.

So here’s my take on all this. A terrible report is almost, but not quite, dead and buried. The process that might lead to a future legal trade in ivory needs to be fully reconsidered (and CoP16 in Thailand is FAR too early) and speculation about whether there may be legal trade in the near future needs to be taken off the table as it is, in my view, fuelling demand and elephant slaughter.

We need to be totally clear: No more trade; No more killing; No more buying. Africa and Asia’s elephants need a break!

If you want to hear more about my personal views on this then please go to my latest video blog!

China Catches the Tigers Tail?

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Despite strenuous protests from China, CITES has started to get tough on the tiger issue and to turn its attention to other big cats under threat…

Find out more by watching my Video Blog.

Thanks and in extreme haste!

Blogging off


Talking Rhinos to Death?

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

This morning here in Geneva, a Rhino Working Group of CITES countries led by the UK reported back to Standing Committee with their findings. Having been set up against the back drop of a rapid escalation in poaching in recent years, the group was tasked with finding ways in which CITES could help improve existing trade controls and reduce the impact of illegal trade on rhinos. After months of discussion and deliberation they came back saying they needed more time. Why? To identify urgent short-term measures!

They did, however, point out that Vietnam, a country heavily implicated in the illegal trade in recent years, had not provided the information requested and that they should be asked again.

Although rhino poaching is now hitting East African countries like Kenya and Tanzania hard, most rhino live – and die – in South Africa. Not surprisingly, as South Africa took the floor, many were keen to hear what they had been doing about the killing. This amounted to some changes to regulations concerning trophy hunting, improved co-ordination between federal and state authorities and progress made towards the signing of bilateral agreements with Vietnam and China. South Africa also reported that the rate of poaching was slowing and that the 61 applications received so far this year from trophy hunters wishing to shoot rhino for sport were dramatically down from the 158 applications received in the same period in 2011. No one mentioned the prospect of legalising trade in rhino horn as some in South Africa are calling for.

Surely I wasn’t the only one to be more than a little underwhelmed by this response. After all nearly 300 rhino have been poached this year so far – and at this rate the year-end figure will significantly surpass 2011′s deadly toll.

Kenya, a country resolutely fighting both elephant and rhino poaching hit the nail on the head – the measures set out by South Africa were all very well but what about the efforts in countries such as China and Vietnam to reduce demand? The silence that followed spoke volumes.

Bottom line? Unless massively increased efforts are made to reduce demand and educate consumers to avoid rhino horn then it’s likely that when the Working Group submits its updated findings and recommendations in March 2013, at the next Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, the headline will read: Hundreds More Rhino Poached – No End In Sight.

Video Day 4

CITES Standing Committee Day 2

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Intervention made by Will Travers OBE (CEO Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA) on behalf of the Species Survival Network (SSN) at the Standing Committee meeting help in Geneva 23-27 July.

Thank you Mr Chairman,

SSN would like to thank the CITES Secretariat, those who have contributed to this report (on Elephant Conservation, Illegal Killing and the Ivory Trade) and the previous speakers. The information they have provided has pulled into sharp focus the crisis faced by elephants across much of their range.

We have heard about welcome contributions to the *AEF, the progress of the **AEAP, possible new high level meetings, reported improvements in enforcement, and a general desire to address the situation. We have also heard calls for new ideas in an attempt to stop and reverse current trends.

Mr Chairman, with due respect to all who are deeply involved in this life and death issue I believe that some of the decisions taken by CITES have contributed to the present crisis.

In a letter from the UK Minister responsible at that time, the UK and the EU’s support for the 2008 legal sale of ivory was made in the belief that this would go some way to satisfying demand and cause a subsequent decline in poaching. Since that time, as †ETIS, ‡MIKE and others confirm, illegal trade has dramatically increased, poaching is at record levels and the price of illegal raw ivory has reached new and devastating heights.

MIKE states that it cannot make a correlation between the 2008 legal sale with the current situation. That is not to say there is no such correlation and, from a commonsense perspective, I think most reasonable people will conclude that past decisions have indeed fuelled demand and the deadly consequences of increased demand.

Mr Chairman, political will clarifying that legal trade has perceived and actual negative consequences is a defining factor in this debate, for from political will flow a series of actions – better enforcement, improved protection, increased funding, public education, vitally important demand reduction, action on domestic ivory markets. Conversely, further discussions and actions that indicate the likelihood of future legal ivory trade – whether through one-off sales, annual quotas, whether from natural mortality or not – are likely to make matters even worse.

In conclusion Mr Chairman, in answer to the question what more can we do, we can stop selling ivory, we can stop buying ivory and we can stop speculating on the resumption of ivory trade. Let’s not send out mixed messages. Let’s have total clarity.

Thank you Mr Chairman

Video update pt 1

Video update pt 2

*African Elephant Fund
**African Elephant Action Plan
†Elephant Trade Information System – ie. ivory seizure monitoring system
‡Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants – ie. poaching monitoring system

For more info on elephants and the ivory trade visit

CITES Standing Committee Day1

Monday, July 23rd, 2012


Nothing on elephants, rhinos or tigers today, but secret ballots very much on the agenda – again! The UK and US expressed concern about the current process – despite the fact that 176 countries are signatories to CITES, a secret ballot can be called with the support of just 11 countries. The UK seemed in favour of raising this threshold to half the countries while the US suggested one third. The US also suggested that using a secret ballot to decide on whether a vote should be carried out by secret ballot should not be possible. Switzerland, India, Mexico, Chile, Australia, Canada and Kenya agreed and Botswana, DRC, Japan, Kuwait and China did not!

When the future security of wild species are in doubt, surely a modern global convention such as CITES should make its decisions in an open and accountable way. Secret ballots intentionally exclude civil society, deny public scrutiny and distance national representatives from the citizens who pay their wages and who, in some cases, elect them.

So this issue will now come to the full CITES Conference of the Parties in March 2013 (Thailand) and we shall see whether openness or secrecy carries the day!

Tomorrow, species under threat come up for debate.. Watch this space and spread the word!

Blogging off


Will prepares for day 2

For more info on elephants and the ivory trade visit

Good news for captive animals in Europe!!!

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Dear Friends of Wildlife

Good news for captive animals in Europe!!!

This is probably my shortest blog.

On 4th July 2012, a crucial vote of the European Parliament finally secured better future protection for wild animals in captivity. This momentous conclusion took two years of relentless work by the Born Free Foundation and our EU partners and now ensures the welfare of this category of animal is recognised by the European Community opening up opportunities to apply higher standards of animal care. Click here for the full story.

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