Author: Leon

South Africa Signals Policy Shift That May End Support of Legal Rhino Horn Trade, Ivory Trade, and Captive Lion Breeding

A New Report Kindles Hopes of New Policy in South Africa

On 2 May, 2021 the Minister of South Africa’s Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries announced a decision to use a nearly 600-page report as guidance for future directives on management and policy towards wildlife and the environment. The report, recently made available but published internally in December 2020, was written by the department’s High-Level Panel formed on 10 October, 2019.

The report highlights activities and concerns related to the management, legal hunting, breeding, and trade of South Africa’s five most iconic mammals. With this special emphasis on the African savanna elephant, lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, and white rhinoceros, the Panel engaged with a limited number of the public, both with local and regional interests, and took into account studies relating the most recent data on land usage, threats to wildlife, threats and concerns to humans, and wildlife populations and ranges.

In May of 2021 the Minister stressed the need to prioritize the “improved inclusion of marginalised groups, especially communities living with or adjacent to these species.” Additionally, they stated that South Africa should strive to be a leader in bringing Africa to a consensus on the elephant ivory trade and that the country would not oppose the international ban on the rhino horn trade. This was a major departure from the stance taken by South Africa and its neighbors over the last twenty years. Southern African nations in 2002 and again as recently as 2016 had taken unusual positions against measures that many world governments and wildlife NGOs saw as means of stemming demand for illegal ivory and that would have a ripple effect on transnational organized crime. In 2016 South Africa had also reinstated the legal sale of rhino horn within its borders, a controversial move that was seen to supply illegal Asian demand, not South African. If the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries follows through with its new priorities, South Africa has the opportunity to restore the country’s reputation among tourists and to maintain a key leadership role in megafauna conservation.

More Captive Lions Than Wild in South Africa

For perhaps the first time, the South African government has recognized that “the captive lion industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly, the negative impact on the authentic wild hunting industry, and the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and the illegal trade.” Additionally, “there was a predominant view that the captive lion breeding industry did not contribute to conservation and was doing damage to South Africa’s conservation and tourism reputation.”

The move has garnered praise from Born Free Foundation, which has been working for decades to improve the welfare of captive lions and to end questionable breeding practices in the country. WildAid has also celebrated the announcement and hopes that South Africa’s move will embolden Asia to take strict measures to reduce the sale and trade in African-sourced lion bones that have been used as an alternative to tiger bones in traditional folk medicines. According to WildAid, there are 8,000-12,000 lions living in captivity in South Africa, many of them farmed for their bones or for the trophy hunting industry. Fewer than 4,000 wild lions are left in South Africa.

Disease Transmission and the Future of Global Environmental Tourism

South Africa’s announcements comes after increased concern about disease transmission between wildlife and humans across the globe. In May 2021, concern over COVID-19 transmission in India led to the closure of all tiger reserves, sanctuaries, and national parks in the country. With local communities bordering tiger reserves, India sees a necessity in preserving the health of their wildlife and eco-tourism opportunities by taking strong mitigation measures to avoid human-wildlife contact and spread of COVID-19 between species. In April of 2020 several tigers and lions at New York’s Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19.

During its own lockdowns, South Africa had on one occasion had vacant police stations and significantly reduced ranger patrols. Many private reserves also were forced to reduce activities of their private rangers. While 2020 saw an unprecedented decline in the number of poaching incidents reported, COVID-19 related restrictions in the country have lifted and a corresponding uptick in poaching incidents has been observed. Continued spread of the disease has damaged environmental tourism across the globe, but South Africa likely hopes to encourage a return of foreign tourists to its national parks and tourist venues by making the policy shift recommended by the High-Level Panel’s report.

Conservation Groups SRI and IRF Issue Joint Statement Saying “No Evidence” of Links Between Rhino Horn and Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The International Rhino Foundation and Save the Rhino International have released a joint statement on misinformation related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). They explain that there is no evidence of the coronavirus originating from rhino horn, nor is there evidence that rhino horn would treat the virus or its symptoms.

Please read their joint statement for more information.

Education for Nature – Vietnam Issues Open Letter Calling for Stronger Wildlife Trade Enforcement in Vietnam

The NGO Education for Nature – Vietnam, supported by the International Rhino Foundation (and others), has issued an open letter calling for stronger action against the wildlife trade in Vietnam.

After the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) the Chinese wildlife markets and wildlife-farming operations were temporarily shuttered, stifling the legal and grey-market trades. It also exposed the extent of the wildlife farming industry within China where, on February 24th, the Chinese government halted consumption and trade of wild animals.

With concerns over the origin of the coronavirus, now is an opportunity to shed more light on the wildlife farming and trade in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations as well as encourage national governments to improve the enforcement of wildlife conservation and trade laws or even curtail and end domestic trade.

 

ENV urges Vietnam’s Prime Minister to take action against wildlife trade amid nCoV outbreak

 

 

Updates to Recent Elephant and Rhino Poaching Data

We want to give our thanks to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for providing PoachingFacts with detailed poaching statistics for elephants and rhinoceroses up to and through 2018. We would also like to thank Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) for the basic data on leopard and tiger poaching in India through early 2019, as well as detailed mortality statistics for both species (through 2017), which have also been updated thanks to their respective reports. These data sets have been added to our ever-expanding database of wildlife poaching statistics and corroborate earlier statistics on file.

New Article: Buyers of Pangolin Scales

PoachingFacts LogoWe have released a new, in-depth article in our “Buyers of” series on wildlife trafficking. The article “Buyers of Pangolin Scales” focuses on the high-value pangolin trade and the consumers who have historically and recently purchased pangolin scales, meat, and other parts. The article pieces together the scope of pangolin exploitation by summarizing historical and modern reports on the subjects of pangolin poaching, trafficking, demand drivers, and African and Asian end-consumers.

All eight species of pangolin are currently being exploited in their native African and Asian range states, primarily for use by consumers in China and Vietnam as well as the international Chinese pharmaceutical industry. Ignorance of these species and their cultural importance to some groups has allowed poaching, habitat degradation, and deforestation to play key roles in the enrichment of organized crime syndicates and the population decline of these little-known species. Recently international regulations on commercial trade have been put in place, but it remains to be seen what enforcement countries opt to put in place.


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Newly Recommended Conservation Group: Wildlife Vets International

Wildlife Vets International Logo We’re very pleased to add Wildlife Vets International to our list of incredible front-line conservation & anti-poaching groups. WVI has a massive impact on wildlife species in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Programs in the United Kingdom, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia’s Sumatra, Mauritius, Russia, Seychelles, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe provides veterinary assistance to a wide variety of wildlife and support scientific research. They strive to conserve and protect the habitats of endangered wildlife and provide data and information on the health and management of endangered species, with particular focuses on painted dogs, Amur leopards, tigers, turtles, and birds of prey. WVI is a registered charity in the United Kingdom.

Newly Recommended Conservation Group: Painted Dog Conservation

Painted Dog Conservation LogoPainted Dog Conservation is the latest front-line conservation organization to be added to our list of conservation & anti-poaching groups. Since 2002 PDC has operated a rehabilitation facility and clinic in Zimbabwe to support the health and future of African painted dogs (also called painted wolves). They also monitor wild packs of painted dogs for their safety while also collecting behavioral and genetic information to better understand the species and develop management plan for ecosystems with painted dogs. PDC has their own anti-poaching unit working closely with the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority and Forestry Commission to provide direct-action against poaching and to reduce human-wildlife conflict. A visitor center in Zimbabwe is open to the public.

Painted Dog Conservation is registered as a charity in Australia, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States. They have tax-deductible status in the United Kingdom and United States.