Category Archives: wildlife trade

Kenya at the crossroads: it’s time to root out the elites who control wildlife crime

A huge seizure of ivory at Kenya’s main port, Mombasa, tests the will of political leaders to apply the law on wildlife crime

Police with some of more than 200 elephant tusks seized in Mombasa on June 5, 2014. Photograph: Kevin Odit

Police with some of more than 200 elephant tusks seized in Mombasa on June 5, 2014. Photograph: Kevin Odit

The announcement of the seizure on Thursday (June 5th) of more than 200 elephant tusks in a motor vehicle warehouse in Mombasa was a rude but necessary awakening for us in Kenya

This huge haul, following a tipoff to local police authorities, confirms Mombasa’s pivotal role as a transit point for smuggling ivory out of Africa.

The photographs show some gigantic tusks, undoubtedly from Kenya’s greatest tuskers. One enormous tusk in particular stood out; it can surely be linked to an individual elephant. These can only have come from killing fields in Kenya’s flagship National Parks, like Tsavo, Marsabit, Samburu and Masai Mara.

The last refuges for these magnificent animals are no longer safe havens, and are under siege by increasingly well-armed and equipped poachers. Recent TV reports in Kenya have exposed the sophisticated organization of the poaching gangs, whose leaders are well-connected to Kenya’s ruling elite. In many cases their identities are known, but nobody dares to name them.

Media confusion around the circumstances of the latest seizure raises fears that once again the big fish will slip through the net. Reports initially indicated that two people had been arrested. Then the police further disclosed that the people arrested had tried to bribe them with Ksh 5 million (Kenyan shillings, about £34,000). By the end of the day, the two arrested had somehow transformed into just one.

Oddly – or perhaps not surprisingly – the main person apparently behind the trafficking could not be traced. Identified only as a “Mombasa tycoon”, aged 52, possibly of Arab heritage, closely linked to the political elite, his identity remains shadowy. After a whole day, officials claimed they “could not find him”.

Latest reports indicate that two people have been charged. The prosecutor has asked for time to conduct investigations and hearing for bail will be heard on Monday. On task is the new Wildilfe Crime Division of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions. This was set up recently in an attempt to fast track wildlife crime prosecutions and bypass local courts that were seen as more susceptible to bribery.

Prosecutors have many options, including seizing properties, bank accounts and anything that could be deemed the “proceeds of crimes”. They can also charge the offenders with tax evasion, attempted bribery, organized crime and other serious offences. But so far, prosecutors have been unwilling to use these powers in cases of wildlife crime, or to seek the maximum sentences – a fine of Ksh 20 million or life imprisonment – stipulated under Kenya’s stringent new Wildlife Act.

The language in the Wildlife Act is rather vague and leaves open the possibility of imposing much lighter sentences. In this case the suspects might even get away with a charge of illegal possession of a government trophy, which carries a minimum fine of Ksh 1 million or just over £7,000. Not much for a cache of ivory worth over a million pounds.

Kenyan conservation organizations including WildlifeDirect and the African Network for Animal Welfare have begun lobbying parliament to amend the new law to raise the maximum fine to Ksh 100 million, with life imprisonment as the only alternative. Parliamentarians seem keen on the idea, but laws are only as effective as their implementation.

Like so many other high profile arrests, things in this case seem to be going cold horribly fast as the “untouchable” Mombasa businessman uses his influence, networks, cash and friends to get him out of the sticky situation.

The whole episode might sound like a plot from the TV series “Law and Order” but this is for real and the stakes are high. In reality Kenyan is at a crossroads. All the elements to successfully combat wildlife crime are in place: informants are supplying leads to the police, the police are making arrests, the prosecution service is organized to press charges, and the law allows for appropriate penalties.

The Kenyan public is fed up with seeing the nation’s wildlife disappear before their eyes and wants to see action. All that is lacking is the will of political leaders to set the machine they have built in motion, and let it run, no matter who gets caught up in the cogs.

For those of us agitating for change, this high profile case is the opportunity for Kenya to demonstrate its seriousness in combating wildlife crime. According to WildlifeDirect: “This is the moment for the government of Kenya to demonstrate that there are no sacred cows. No matter how high the perpetrators of these crimes are they must be brought to justice.”

The Kenyan government has been vocal at CITES and other big events. But it’s time to do more than talking and put our money where our mouth is. If we don’t have the courage to take on the big men and women who run the wildlife crime syndicates, we should shut up.

At the end of June, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta will open the UNEP Governing Assembly meeting in Nairobi. In a speech to Ban Ki-moon and other dignitaries, he will be expected to demonstrate Kenya’s achievements in combating wildlife crime. Right now, Kenya has very little to show.

Death of an Iconic Elephant

A Blow to Conservation – Poachers Kill Iconic Elephant

Picture and story courtesy of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Mountain Bull in his prime

Mountain Bull in his prime

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is deeply saddened to announce the death of Mountain Bull (MT Bull), the enigmatic elephant whose dedication to using the traditional elephant migration routes in northern Kenya captured the imagination of many and led to numerous conservation initiatives.

Mountain Bull’s carcass was found in Mount Kenya Forest on Thursday, with visible spear wounds and its tusks missing.

No other animal has had greater impact on wildlife conservation in northern Kenya than Mountain Bull. Many credit him as the force behind the construction of the pioneering Lewa/Ngare Ndare Forest/Mount Kenya elephant corridor that links the forest ecosystem of Mount Kenya with the savannah ecosystems of Lewa and Samburu plains further to the north.

This has led to the opening up of the traditional migration route of over 2,000 African elephants that had previously been blocked by human development in Mount Kenya. The ground-breaking establishment of this corridor also led to Kenya’s most recent World Heritage Site inscription when in June of 2013, Lewa and Ngare Ndare Forest were extended to be part of the Mount Kenya World Heritage Site.

Mountain Bull’s death is a great loss to the conservation fraternity. He taught us much about elephant and animal behaviour, migration routes and patterns, and to a large extent, left many inspired by his bravery and resilience.

Rest in peace Mountain Bull.

Raising Awareness for Wildlife Plight

By Brodie Owen

Kenyan Night May 10 2014 Hall Photos 007

The Ambassador (wearing HOOE armband) receiving a gift from District Governor Geoff Tancred D9700

 

Kenya’s Ambassador to Australia made his first diplomatic trip outside of Canberra to Wagga on a mission to protect African Elephants and Rhinos from greedy international ivory markets

Ambassador Isaiya Kabira, a former journalist in his home country has been in the top job for about two months and is determined his appointment will be defined as one that raises about the beauty of the animal with tusks, sharp and strong.

“In the 1990s we had about three to four million elephants roaming Africa. Today we are talking about a number closer to 500,000″, Ambassador Kabira said on Saturday.

“With a growing middle class, particularly in Asia, we’re seeing a lot of demand for ivory…it’s seen as a status symbol”

The cause to raise awareness of animal poaching across the plains of Kenya is being championed by Rotary International Australia which is planning a trip to Kenya within the next year.

The Coolamon Rotary branch has taken particular interest to curtailing the ivory demand. There are fears the level of demand threatens the very survival of African elephants.

Rotary District Governor Geoff Tancred compared the plight of African wild Elephants and Rhinos to Australia’s Tasmanian tiger which was hunted to extinction in the 1930s.

“The numbers of wild elephants and also rhinoceros in the wild in Africa is depleting at an alarming rate,” he said

Ambassador Kabira said Australians should view Africa’s wildlife as international heritage

“We should work together  here in Australia to ensure that there is no demand at all for ivory,” he said

“Only Elephants should wear ivory”

Exchanging business cards, Wagga Mayor Rod Kendall and member for Riverina Michael McCormack agreed to work closer together with Ambassador Kabira

Crying Rhino

 

 

John Glassford (wearing HOOE T-shirt) H.E. Ambassador Kabira & Mrs. Kabira

John Glassford (wearing HOOE T-shirt) H.E. Ambassador Kabira & Mrs. Kabira

WildlifeDirect wishes to thank:
John Glassford
Chair 2013 -2014
Proposed RAG for Endangered Species
Rotary Club of Coolamon District 9700
New South Wales, Australia

http://www.endangeredrag.org/

Sheria (The Law) is DEAD!!! Rhino Poaching incident this weekend

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that I share this, my latest blog post about meeting a 15 year old rhino named Sheria in Ol Pejeta Conservancy. It is about the horror and reality of meeting a freshly butchered rhino face to face.

By taking James Mworia one of Kenya’s youngest entrepreneurs (Centum Investments), as well as CEO of Africa Air Rescue Jagi Gakunju, and other board members of Lewa to see, to smell and to feel Sheria in his death, I hope a seed of change has been sown. Sheria was one of two rhinos murdered this weekend.
We are now calling on His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta to declare Elephant and Rhinos National Treasures, and to take personal responsibility for the war against poachers and traffickers.
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/mar/16/bloody-horror-of-rhino-poaching

Kenya: Wildlife Protection Can Bring Peace, Jobs

By Ambassador Robert F. Godec, The Star
3 March 2014

Protecting wildlife is a central challenge of our time. Far too many elephants, rhinos and other animals are dying at the hands of poachers. Just in the last year, poachers in Kenya alone killed hundreds of elephants for their ivory and at least 59 rhinos for their horns. Unless the carnage is stopped here and elsewhere, our children may be left with no more than photos of many magnificent species.

If we work together with creativity and determination, it doesn’t have to be this way. Last week in Nasuulu Community Conservancy, I saw first-hand one example of how hard work and commitment can protect wildlife while building peace and creating jobs. Communities can solve problems; I saw it happening in Nasuulu. After a day in Isiolo speaking with leaders and citizens, I was deeply impressed by what they had achieved. Thousands of people have better lives and new hope while many animals–including elephants, rhinos and the elegant Grevy’s zebra–are thriving. All as the result of local people coming together to make a difference.

The Nasuulu Community Conservancy is the newest of the 27 conservancies that form the Northern Rangelands Trust. The trust uses a community conservation model that brings together villages and groups historically at odds with one another in a democratic, multi-ethnic forum to manage their own resources. Everyone involved has a stake in the outcome of their conservation efforts. The model has been extraordinarily successful in a part of the country where a harsh environment and distance mean communities feel marginalized. Now local residents benefit from greater investment in the area and in turn feel less sidelined. When asked what this has brought to their communities, leaders answer, “peace, jobs and wildlife.”

Clearly community conservation is only one piece of the larger conservation effort in Kenya. The Kenya Wildlife Service and its dedicated employees are on the front line of safeguarding wildlife throughout the country, managing large tracts of protected land and fighting the scourge of poaching, occasionally at the tragic cost of their own lives. Their leadership is crucial to species protection in Kenya.

In addition to KWS, Kenya’s leaders and citizens are making important contributions. President Kenyatta signed the impressive Wildlife Conservation and Management Act in December. The new law stipulates serious punishments for poachers and allocates greater resources to the national parks and reserves. It will help Kenya end the terrible killing of elephants and rhinos. Civil society also plays a critical role in wildlife conservation in Kenya. NGOs, funded and staffed locally and internationally, contribute ideas, help with wildlife management and assist communities with conservation. Organizations such as Save the Elephants, which I also visited last week, are doing vitally important work. First Lady Margaret Kenyatta is making a difference through her support for such powerful initiatives as the “Hands Off Our Elephants” campaign.

The international community has also stepped up to help. President Obama has made the protection of wildlife a priority and conservation is a top goal of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya. The United States has long prohibited the import of ivory and we recently banned domestic commercial ivory sales. Last November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crushed six tons of ivory to demonstrate our commitment to end the ivory trade and draw attention to the seriousness of the elephant poaching problem.

Here in Nairobi, I meet frequently with government and KWS officials, with civil society and with other leaders in the wildlife conservation community. At the Embassy we created a task force to focus our assistance and ensure it has the greatest possible impact. Today, we provide support to community conservancies such as the Northern Rangelands Trust and training for both KWS and community conservancy rangers. These rangers risk their lives to protect Kenya’s wildlife and we want to ensure they are well-prepared and well-equipped for the task. Since 2004, the Embassy has spent Sh4.4 billion to help wildlife and communities in Kenya. And, last year, President Obama committed another Sh250 million to the effort. In the fight to protect wildlife, the United States is “all in.”

Of course, there remain tough challenges ahead. For example, we must find ways to reduce demand for ivory and rhino horn. Nevertheless, there is hope. During my visit to Nasuulu, I was impressed by the commitment of the community and how fully it understands the value of wildlife. The people of Nasuulu recognize how protecting animals can bring jobs, roads and schools where there were none before. They were grateful for the peace the conservancy has brought and value wildlife as part of their heritage. They are justly proud of what they are doing for themselves, and for the world.

Although it is not the answer for every problem, the community conservancy model is powerful. In making their community better and protecting our common heritage, the people of Nasuulu and the Northern Rangelands Trust have a lesson for all of us.

As a partner for 50 years, the United States is fully committed to working with Kenya on conservation. Together, by marshalling our resources and working creatively, I’m confident we can succeed and protect Kenya’s wonderful wildlife for future generations.

The author is the US envoy to Kenya.

Article at the following link:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201403031078.html?viewall=1

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Good news for Wildlife Conservation as DPP sets up Wildlife Crimes Unit in Kenya

March 3, 2014…
The Director of Public Prosecutions Mr Keriako Tobiko, has swiftly moved to boost the local wildlife and environmental conservation efforts by setting up a fully-fledged Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit.

The unit is, headed by the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Kioko Kamula, and is, mandated to provide prosecutorial services for all offences committed contrary to the recently enacted Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013. The unit comprises of 35 Prosecutors who have already undergone specialist training.

Officers drawn from the unit are also part of a team reviewing the new law on wildlife (Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013) and are, expected to propose suitable amendments to facilitate its efficient application.

Among other milestones, the new unit has already developed a rapid reference guide and model charge sheets on provisions of the law relating to wildlife offences.

“As the world celebrates the World Wildlife Day today, the ODPP wishes to reaffirm its commitment towards protection of our wildlife, which is our national heritage,” Tobiko said.

And added: “The DPP is fully committed to work with all state and non-state actors in the wildlife conservation and criminal justice sectors, to ensure that the law is robustly applied against offenders.We urge increased cooperation and support from all stakeholders and the wider public.”

 As part of the Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit’s role, the ODPP has also established a working committee with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to coordinate investigation and prosecution processes as well as conduct joint trainings.

 A standard operating procedure (SoP) manual for the prosecution of wildlife crimes has also been developed and shared with all stakeholders at the second National Dialogue on wildlife crimes.

 

Ends

Outrageous! Ugandan court to release smuggled ivory

Conservation groups say the current poaching crisis is killing up to 25,000 elephants per year.

Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

This outrageous news went unnoticed on the day when the Ugandan media was focused on the signing of a controversial anti-gay bill into law by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.

The Ugandan Revenue Authority (URA) had seized the ivory being smuggled through Uganda from the DR Congo on 17 October last year. Reportedly consisting of 832 individual pieces, the haul is gruesome evidence of the deaths of many hundreds of elephants and has a market value of several million dollars. According to the Ugandan authorities the culprits behind this heinous crime are Ugandan, Congolese and Kenyan, reflecting the international nature of wildlife crimes in Africa today. However following the confiscation of the material, the traffickers sought a court order to compel the URA to release the ivory, which they claimed had been imported legally. Despite the traffickers never putting an appearance in court, and there being no documentation confirming the ivory entering Uganda, high court judge Justice Musalu Musene ruled in their favour and ordered the ivory to be released for onward export.

In a press release today (26 February) Maria Mutagamba, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, has expressed her shock at this ruling:

We are very dismayed by the said judgment and the likely implications it has for Uganda as a contracting party to CITES Convention [and] … most importantly the damage this has on tourism development and wildlife conservation in Uganda. A team of lawyers of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and URA have already filed a notice of appeal to challenge the judgement. We shall decisively pursue the criminal prosecution of suspects (owners of the confiscated ivory) until they are brought to book. Security Agencies continue to pursue these suspects who are at large.

The minister called on all the organs of the state to proactively support government efforts to stamp out illegal wildlife trade and trafficking in order to conserve Uganda’s heritage and tourism aspirations which are essential for the social transformation of the economy

Meanwhile Charles Tumwesigye, the UWA’s Deputy Director of Conservation, has vowed the UWA will do everything possible to ensure this consignment does not leave Uganda’s borders.

This case contrasts with recent successes in Kenya, where traffickers have been successfully prosecuted and given hefty sentences. These successes reflect improved inter-agency collaboration and high-level political commitment to combat wildlife crime, as well as informed public awareness of the issue. It will take time to create these favourable conditions in Uganda. But this case is a flagrant violation of Uganda’s treaty obligations and the international community should make it clear that it will not be tolerated. CITES should be asked to impose sanctions on Uganda. This court’s decision undermines those Ugandan authorities, such as the UWA, that are seriously working to protect wildlife.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/africa-wild/2014/feb/26/uganda-to-release-smuggled-ivory

Illegal Ivory not to be returned to criminal – Statement by the Uganda Minister

THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA MINISTRY OF TOURISM, WILDLIFE AND ANTIQUITIES

 

PRESS STATEMENT ON THE RULING OF JUSTICE WILSON MASALU MUSENE IN MISCELLANEOUS CAUSE NO.49 OF 2013 KAYUMBA EMILE OGANE VS UGANDA REVENUE AUTHORITY OVER IVORY TRAFFICKING

 

We have received with shock; the ruling of Justice Wilson Masalu Musene that Uganda Revenue Authority should hand over confiscated ivory to their owners (criminal suspects who are on the run and have arrest warrants issued against them). The sector is in great shock over the ruling.

This case was filed by one Kayumba Emile Ogane against URA seeking orders for release of 832 pieces of Ivory confiscated by URA, that the Uganda Police, Uganda wildlife Authority and all other authorities in Uganda give effect to the release order.

Background to this case

On 17th October 2013, we received information from URA that a container with 832 Ivory had been discovered at Ken freight Inland Container Deposit (ICD) Bweyogerere. We immediately sent a team of law enforcement officers and wildlife experts from Uganda Wildlife Authority in company of police, who confirmed that the items were indeed ivory. The consignment was then taken to URA customs stores for safe custody pending the investigations of the matter and possible reprimand of the culprits.

The matter was accordingly reported to police for purposes of investigation to find the source of the ivory and to have the people involved arrested and prosecuted. The suspects identified by the preliminary findings were Owino Odhiambo (Kenyan national) and Kayumba Emille Ogane (Congolese national) who are still at large. The Chief Magistrates court at Kampala issued arrest warrants for the said suspects and the police and other security agencies are still searching for the whereabouts of these suspects for purposes of effecting arrest.

Offences committed by the suspects

Acquiring or having possession of prohibited goods contrary to Section 200(d)(i) of the East African Community Customs Management Act 2004, Being in illegal possession of wildlife protected species without permission contrary to the provisions of the Uganda wildlife Act.

Status of the Criminal case

The investigations were completed, the file was sanctioned for prosecution, an agent of Kayumba Ogane, one Ocaya David was arraigned before court for prosecution as an accomplice to the commission of these offences under this matter, but was released on bail.

The main suspects Owino Odhiambo (Kenyan national) and Kayumba Emille Ogane (Congolese national) are still at large and the police and other security agencies are looking for them including Interpol and LATF.

At national level, Uganda as sovereign State, prohibited any dealing in wildlife species and specimens without permission and specifically prohibits possession, trade, import, export, re-export and re-import of wildlife products and species including ivory.

Elephants are listed among the highly endangered wildlife species under the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to which Uganda is party and bound by the resolutions. Any unauthorized trade in ivory and other related products is prohibited.

High Court Miscellaneous Cause No.49 of 2013 Kayumba Emile Ogane Vs Uganda Revenue Authority

As a ploy to defeat the efforts of the various agencies in investigating the illegal possession and purported transportation of illegal ivory, and to frustrate the prosecution of the offenders in the above case, the suspects through their lawyers decided to file the above suit seeking for unconditional release of the said ivory.

Hon. Justice Wilson Masalu Musene unfortunately agreed with the applicant that the ivory was unlawfully confiscated and ordered that the same be immediately released.

It is however very unfortunate and dismaying that such a ruling would be given with total disregard to the requirements of the law before such consignments can be allowed to transit which were never complied with.

It is also important to note that any import, export or re-export of wildlife species require clearance by the relevant countries Management and Scientific authority CITES which is the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities and Uganda Wildlife Authority respectively but which was never complied with. It is a legal requirement that any import, export or re-export of any wildlife species and or specimens through Uganda requires clearance by both Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities which I represent.

The suspect concealed the said goods and never declared to URA at customs points and only disguised the same as coffee meant for export. If the ruling of the honorable Justice is implemented, it will contravene the law and will cause absurdity to conservation as it will be setting terrible precedent by giving poachers and illegal wildlife traders a blanket protection.

Conclusion

We are very dismayed by the said Judgment and the likely implications it has for Uganda as a contracting Party to CITES Convention. But most importantly, the damage this has on tourism development and wildlife conservation in Uganda. A team of lawyers of Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Revenue Authority have already filed a notice of Appeal to challenge the Judgment Application for an interim order to stay execution of the judgment and filing of the appeal will also be immediately done. We shall decisively pursue the criminal prosecution of suspects (Owners of the confiscated ivory) until they are brought to book. Security Agencies continue to pursue these suspects who are at large. I want to call upon all the organs of the State to proactively support Government effort to stamp out illegal wildlife trade and trade and trafficking in order to conserve our heritage and its associated tourism development which is a vehicle for social transformation of our economy.

 

For God and My Country

Hon. Dr. Maria Mutagamba MINISTER

London wildlife crime summit: all eyes on China

No matter what is agreed and how much money is raised, little will change without China’s endorsement of a domestic ban of trade in ivory and rhino horn

A summit at Lancaster House in London , attended by high-level delegations from more than 50 countries, will discuss “urgent measures” to stop the illegal trade in products of three endangered wildlife species: elephants, rhinos and tigers. Following recent intergovernmental meetings hosted by Cites and the IUCN, all agree that we are facing a crisis and something must be done. But this meeting is the big one: it’s make or break time. The UK government hosting the event, and its royal backers, will be fervently hoping for a successful outcome that makes for positive headlines on Friday morning. But all eyes will be on one delegation: China.

With regard to the two African species, elephants and rhinos, progress is being made. The government of my country, Kenya, has passed – and is enacting – tough new anti-trafficking laws. The US, no doubt with an eye to stealing the headlines, has just announced a complete ban on trade in ivory. Prince William will be launching United for Wildlife, a collaboration between seven international NGOs, and a new African organization, Stop Ivory, has been formed to work with governments, NGOs, and the private sector to remove ivory from stockpiles and support governments’ efforts to implement their elephant action plans. But populations of elephants and rhinos are falling, mainly as a result of slaughter and trafficking controlled by criminal gangs based in China. No matter what is agreed at the conference and how much money is raised, if it fails to get China’s endorsement of a domestic ban of trade in ivory and rhino horn, little will change.

It has been suggested that western nations are wary of upsetting the Chinese government by engaging on this issue. They shouldn’t be. Calling for a crackdown on illegal trade in ivory doesn’t pose any existential threat to China, politically or economically. Chinese leaders are pragmatists. They will know they have nothing lose by combating domestic organised crime. Their presence at the conference shows that they appreciate the extent of global concern for the future of these emblematic species, as do their recent actions, including the public destruction of some ivory stockpiles and the arrest of an ivory smuggling gang leader extradited from Kenya. This conference is an opportunity for the Chinese, not a threat. Western delegates should stress the huge global prestige that China could gain by being seen to take a lead on this issue.

Africa is waking up to the reality of the loss of elephants. Countries that were hard-nosed about their right to sell ivory, including Tanzania and Botswana, have agreed to stop, as they recognise that selling ivory just feeds the illegal demand. But African countries don’t have the resources to fight organised wildlife crime on their own. They need support from global agencies and western governments. In fact, it can be argued that Africa needs support from the west to counter organised crime more than it needs economic aid. But above all, African countries need China to take action to stop its citizens pillaging the continent’s heritage.

The partnership between China and Africa is becoming a key driver of global socio-economic development, with the potential to lift billions out of poverty. Africans understand that development carries environmental costs, and that difficult trade-offs often have to be made. But in dealings with the Chinese, African leaders should make it clear that the future of rhinos and elephants is not up for negotiation – and that the announcement of effective action to defeat wildlife crime would boost their standing immeasurably on the African continent. African delegations will then be able to greet the Chinese with outstretched hands, not asking for money, but to shake on new partnerships.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/feb/13/london-wildlife-summit-all-eyes-on-china

Royal ivory: Why Prince William is right

Prince William’s announcement that he wants the royal family’s ivory to be destroyed is praiseworthy and shows his personal commitment to do everything he can to help save species threatened by wildlife crime. It is also the right thing to do.

This article examines some of the arguments for and against destroying ivory as part of the wider global strategy to save African elephants.

When Kenya became the first country to destroy ivory stockpiles by burning them in 1989, it was a hugely symbolic act that inspired the global ban in ivory trade the following year. This demonstration of commitment by an African nation played a key role in galvanising largely successful efforts to control elephant poaching over the next decade.

Now that elephants are once again threatened, William’s initiative – if carried out – could help focus the world’s attention on the problem in a similar way. The sight of arguably the world’s most famous family destroying its ivory collection would have a tremendous impact.

Two arguments have been made against the idea. The first objection is that it would be wrong to destroy works of art that are of beauty and cultural value. However, in emergency situations, it is often necessary to destroy things of value in order to achieve a more important objective: the surgeon amputates a diseased limb to save the patient; fire fighters cut down trees to contain a forest fire; nature reserve managers cull a species that is threatening the integrity of the ecosystem. Make no mistake: this is also an emergency. Within a few years, African elephants may well be all but extinct in the wild if no effective action is taken. So this first argument against destroying ivory only holds water if you believe that ivory artworks are more important than elephants. But by destroying works of art you are not destroying the culture that made them, nor the living cultural tradition that they inspire. If the African elephant becomes extinct it will be gone forever: the ecological, cultural, economic – and moral – loss to humanity would be incalculable.

The second argument is that destroying ivory would not help to save the elephants. This argument has to be taken seriously. The fact is that the complexity of the problem makes it hard to know whether any one action taken to resolve it will have the desired effect or not. Development agencies working to save human populations threatened by war and famine describe these situations as “complex emergencies”. They are complex because war, crime, hunger, disease and many other factors interact with each other in often unpredictable ways. This means that agencies have to take difficult decisions in conditions that are highly uncertain. They cannot always be sure, for example, that aid sent in to feed the hungry will not end up being used to buy arms.

The situation of animals threatened by wildlife crime in Africa today is also a complex emergency. The only difference is that the principal victims are not humans but animals. (Although there are also human victims, just as the environment is also a victim in human complex emergencies.) So there is a legitimate concern that destroying ivory will not have the desired effect, but rather serve to increase its value to criminals and thereby make poaching even more lucrative. It is true that our knowledge of what is driving the increased demand for ivory, especially from China, is insufficient. But the recent studies suggest that this fear is unfounded. The demand comes mainly from the “tuhao”, the wealthy middle class who are buying ivory as a long-term investment, just as they are also buying up huge quantities of gold.

Investors in China and elsewhere have to be persuaded that buying ivory is, firstly, morally wrong and, secondly, a bad investment. Prince William’s proposal would contribute to both of these aims. According to best-selling Kenyan author and environmentalist Kuki Gallman:

‘If to make ivory undesirable by putting a stigma on possessing and exhibiting ivory objects – however refined and precious they may be – is the ultimate aim, so as to stop the market that drives the killing, I cannot think of more powerful a gesture than destroying the royal ivory collection.’

In the medium term the aim should be to shut down the ivory market completely, so that it becomes impossible to buy or sell ivory legally anywhere in the world. To deter would-be investors, it is essential to send a clear signal that the ban on ivory trade is forever; which is why it is so important that countries like Tanzania and Botswana that have announced temporary bans on ivory trade extend them and make them permanent. This measure would not deter organise criminals of course, but it would discourage otherwise law-abiding citizens from investing their savings in ivory and result in a huge decrease in global demand.

So bring on the bonfire of royal ivory in front of Buckingham Palace. Better still, why not give other UK institutions and ordinary citizens the chance to demonstrate their support by adding their own ivory to the pyre?

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2014/feb/19/royal-ivory-prince-william-destruction