Trade or not to trade? It’s not even a question

Dear Friends of Wildlife

The one thing we should not be doing is taking unnecessary risks with endangered species!

The world is already a dangerous enough place, dominated by those who would exploit at all costs – and sometimes the cost can be very high indeed.

So it was fascinating to listen to two sides of the ‘trade or not trade’ debate, hosted by Earthwatch at the Royal Geographical Society on Thursday 17th October.

Yes, I am biased.  And now that we have got that out of the way……

Here is my analysis:

On the one hand, a measured, precautionary, risk-adverse presentation by three leading experts, carefully learning from the mistakes of the past (see the disastrous ivory stockpile sale of 2008) and urging us not to make the same mistakes again.

On the other, a loose collection of disconnected thoughts, massively over-washed with ‘perhaps, maybe, if, potentially’ etc. presented by a group of people attempting to make a case for trade in wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger body parts that did not withstand more than a moment’s scrutiny.  Challenged by members of the audience, the pro-trade cohort simply had no answer when it came to questions such as:

  • How big is the trade?
  • What is the spending power of consumers?
  • How will a legal trade disinsentivise the illegal trade?
  • How will so-called pricing mechanisms, designed to control demand, not be undercut by discounted illegal products?

I did not hear one plausible answer and I did hear some extraordinary analysis suggesting, for example, that the ban on rhino horn trade had been a 40 year failure.  In 2007 just 13 rhino were poached compared to the 750 or so poached this year to date as a result of bogus medicinal claims and the use of rhino horn to enhance status. It’s not the ban that’s failed, it’s the response to demand!

And so while the US, the Philippines and many African countries, destroy their ivory or call for total international and domestic trade bans to be enforced,  South Africa continues to move towards a legal trade in rhino horn, seemingly oblivious to the potentially catastrophic consequences not only for their own rhino but for those in other rhino range States, African or Asian.

We have to ask ourselves one question:  is blind allegiance to the ‘use or lose it’ mantra, the biggest risk of all?

I know where I stand.

To join the debate on Twitter search #earthwatchdebate

Blogging off,


2 Responses to “Trade or not to trade? It’s not even a question”

  1. Gill Gilbey Says:

    How can any intelligent person consider allowing a trade in endangered species? When will the world act to protect elephants and rhinos from unscrupulous people who are only out to make money? These animals cannot live without their tusks and horns isnt that obvious to the people driving the demand!!! But,shamefully,world leaders are silent,the UN does not stand up to the perpetrators,nothing must upset “business” afterall.

  2. Victoria mathew Says:

    No more trading our precious wildlife for money!!!!!