Archive for March, 2013

Global leaders vote to protect many wildlife species at Bangkok meeting

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Dear Friends:

I write to you on the final day of deliberations at the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which has deliberated in Bangkok for two weeks on some of the most important wildlife conservation issues of our time.

And for those same two weeks the Born Free team has fought to address the rhino and elephant poaching crises, the intensive captive breeding of tigers, commercial logging of endangered tree species, the unsustainable fisheries that consume tens of millions of sharks each year, and so much more.

I am pleased to report that we have won success after success in these hard-fought debates. Vietnam, a major rhino horn consumer, was taken to task and urged to reduce demand; the West African manatee received the Treaty’s strongest protection with the support of almost all of the species’ range States; the African Elephant Action Plan, a blueprint for the species’ survival across the continent was reaffirmed and mechanisms for allowing new ivory trade were postponed; renewed calls to act on big cat conservation – lions, tigers, and cheetah – were sounded loudly; and commercially-fished shark and tree species were added to the CITES list of protected species for the first time.

A resounding success indeed!

So to the Born Free team, the Species Survival Network team, the team of dedicated government delegates who supported our positions where it matters most, and to you, who supported us every step of the way, I say thank you.

For the animals,


Watch a clip of Will’s address


Friday, March 8th, 2013

Member countries of CITES today considered the delicate issue of the trade in cheetah from Africa to the Middle East. Born Free strongly supported the document presented by Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, calling for an important study of legal and illegal trade in cheetah.

Given a lack of comprehensive data regarding the nature and extent of the international cheetah trade, it is currently hard to determine the overall impact that the trade may be having on this iconic species; however, Born Free believes the trade to be increasingly problematic for the cheetah.

Born Free has first-hand knowledge of this issue through its work at Born Free Ethiopia, which, in partnership with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, has established the Ensessakotteh Wildlife Rescue and Education Centre outside Addis Ababa.

At the centre, we care for a number of rescued animals, including cheetah confiscated from the illegal pet trade. We have evidence of cheetah being smuggled from either Kenya or Ethiopia to Somaliand as a transit point to the final destination. Current information suggests that this trade is continuing unabated and there may be dozens of illegally acquired cheetah being held in the region.

We are honoured to be working with the Ethiopian authorities to provide lifetime care for rescued individual animals, and we hope to release these animals back into the wild where possible. That said, the real goal should be to stop the illegal trade from creating this problem in the first place.

As member countries to CITES know, more widespread anecdotal evidence suggests that the trade is extensive and hundreds of live animals a year may be leaving the Horn of Africa.

Born Free believes that wildlife belongs in the wild and in the case of cheetah, not in the commercial pet trade.

Blogging off,


On Selling Rhino Horn

Thursday, March 7th, 2013


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the self-professed world’s largest professional global conservation network and a forum for governments, NGOs, scientists, business and local communities to meet the challenges facing conservation.

In September 2012, IUCN members adopted many Resolutions and  Recommendations, one of which “recognize(d) that the successful conservation of rhinos across the entire range will be best achieved via a diversity of management and economic mechanisms” and furthermore called on African countries with rhinos to “maintain enabling land-use and investment policies together with support for appropriate and well-managed, sustainable, income-generating options that encourage investment in rhinos, sustainable populations and which help fund effective conservation by the private wildlife industry and communities”.

Confusing for the non-scientist? Need translation into English? To successfully bring the current rhino poaching epidemic – which is a serious crisis – under control we shouldn’t just be thinking about wildlife law enforcement, demand reduction in ‘consumer’ countries, etc. but also the legalisation and sale of rhino horn, likely to the same markets driving the poaching in the first place. The fact that this has already been tried in the case of elephant ivory and not only failed miserably to bring elephant poaching under control  but also further stimulated demand, seems to be lost on these ‘experts’. What parallel universe are they living in?

Unfortunately, this Recommendation was used by pro-trade advocates and some members of the IUCN Rhino Specialist Group at their side event at the current CITES meeting in Bangkok yesterday, seeking to promote the idea of a proposal to sell rhino horn. Rhinos are coming up for discussion this Friday and two more side events are also planned, one of which, entitled ‘Rhino Economics’ to be attended by the relevant South African Minister, leaves nothing to the imagination for what agenda it might be promoting.

I dare say it’s a good thing Born Free is here to bring some reason and common sense to the otherwise confused conservation priorities and plans of a self-serving few…

Blogging off


End the tiger trade, once and for all

Monday, March 4th, 2013

I long for a time when CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) decisions and national enforcement on the ground are sufficient to provide a safety net that allows wild tiger populations to recover and tiger poachers and tiger parts profiteers to be deterred from plying their deadly trade.

Since 1993 CITES Parties have recognised that trade bans alone are insufficient to demonstrably deter the trade in tiger parts. Additional, measurable, and powerful other actions are essential. Among them: eliminating domestic trade, destroying stockpiles of tiger parts and products, and stopping once and for all the intensive commercial breeding of tigers for trade.

For many Tiger Range States, the focus of time and money has been on protecting tigers in the wild. This includes funding wildlife law enforcement agencies targeting criminals engaged in tiger trade, and dismantling the criminal networks that back these insidious individuals.

Whilst millions of dollars have been invested in enforcement and other demand reduction strategies to reach consumers, there has been a growth in operations – some legal, some illegal – breeding tigers for trade in parts and products; undermining those vital field efforts.

And even where police action is effective in making seizures and arrests, the criminal justice system may not fully prosecute or punish offenders.

Legal domestic trade in captive tiger parts stimulates a dangerous demand that imperils wild tigers everywhere. This legal trade also undermines the will of the CITES Parties in Resolution Conference 12.5 and Decision 14.69. This decision makes it quite clear that tigers should not be bred for the trade in their parts and products.

Since 2007, however, there has been insufficient reporting by relevant Parties to demonstrate compliance. Evidenced most recently in the lack of reporting to the CITES Secretariat in response to a request for information on how many facilities there are, how many tigers are in those facilities, how big are the stockpiles of tiger parts and products and why are they being kept? What steps are being taken to phase out the operations that are engaged in breeding for trade?

We believe that these questions must be answered immediately and that CITES Parties must remain vigilant on the tiger issue. As long as the tiger is at risk in the wild, as long as the tiger is bred in captivity for commercial trade, as long as there are fewer than 4,000 tigers remaining in the wild, CITES Parties must speak unequivocally on this issue. Action at every level is needed.

Blogging off,


Introducing the tiger farming event at CITES meeting