The Bombay high court on Tuesday directed the chief forest officer, wildlife (Kolhapur), to immediately take steps to relocate Sunder, a 14-year-old elephant currently housed in Kolhapur’s Jyotiba temple, and file a compliance report before the court by December 23.
A division bench of justices VM Kanade and MS Sonak gave this direction while hearing a petition filed by Dr Manilal Valliyate on behalf of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Foreign secretary, who backs ban on ivory trade, breaks off London speech to make plea for ‘magnificent’ vulnerable animal
Boris Johnson has interrupted a sweeping speech on the UK’s geopolitical future to make a passionate plea to save the African elephant, saying they are on the brink of extinction as they “get turned into umbrella stands and billiard balls”.
In the midst of a speech at Chatham House to ambassadors and foreign policy advisers, the UK foreign secretary said he was “obsessed with the tragic fate of the African elephant”.
[Citizen] The statement by the permanent secretary in the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism about the government’s intention to establish a paramilitary force to deal with poaching must have sent cold shivers in the spine of poachers.
[Daily News] In a bid to combat poaching in the country, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism has announced the establishment of a paramilitary force system that will directly protect animals from being attacked and killed by poachers.
Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC), an operational partner of Elephant Action League, is an independent organization that works to expose and disrupt criminal networks responsible for transnational, organized wildlife crime. Their team of wildlife crime specialist work to ensure that wildlife criminals are prosecuted by national authorities. WJC creates a “Map of Facts” at the end of each case file to expose how the criminal networks are working and what is know about the key perpetrators. Before the “Map of Facts” is released to relevant state authorities, it’s reviewed by an independent Accountability Panel to ensure accuracy.
During a year long investigation into wildlife trafficking hub Nhi Khe, Viet Nam, WJC investigators observed US$53.1 million wildlife parts being trafficked through criminal networks consisting of 51 individuals. The wildlife parts were from up to 907 elephants, 579 rhinos, 225 tigers and other endangered species including pangolin, bear, hawksbill turtles and helmeted hornbills. WJC found that Nhi Khe has expanded as a transnational trading hub thanks to the convenience of social media platforms like WeChat, to target Chinese buyers, and Facebook to target buyers from South East Asia and others. The investigation also found 17 Chinese bank accounts were being used by traffickers to receive payment from their Chinese buyers.
Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence presented to Vietnamese law enforcement authorities,and extensive outreach and engagement to international stakeholders, the Vietnamese government still has not taken forceful action to shut down this criminal network. WJC acknowledges that Vietnamese authorities have taken some steps to address the illegal open trade activity in Nhi Khe, but state that behind closed doors the key traders are still active. It has also been found that these crimes are being displaced to neighboring locations near Nhi Khe and north of Hanoi.
Public Hearing Description:
WJC always present their investigative findings to national authorities first, and attempt to engage and influence them through a national dialogue process. However, if these national authorities do not translate their newfound information into sufficient action to disrupt the criminal networks, then WJC holds a public hearing. This public hearing is a mechanism designed to help activate justice once all other avenue have been explored and unsuccessful. Over this two day hearing, evidence from the investigation will be presented for validation with experts and witnesses, to an impartial panel of five international experts drawn from the Accountability Panel.
The purpose of this hearing is to present evidence in public where it cannot be ignored and hopefully persuade relevant governments to act. If the panel decided the presented evidence is sufficient, they will validate the findings and put forward their recommendations.
Photo credit: Wildlife Justice Commission
Because of Vietnamese authorities’ absence of action, WJC decided to hold a public hearing to present their evidence in a global public forum to validate their findings and recommend concrete action to the Vietnamese authorities. The Wildlife Justice Commission held its first ever Public Hearing on November 14 & 15, 2016 at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the Netherlands.
The accountability panel was made up of the following international experts:
Professor Edgardo Buscaglia: Senior Scholar in Law and Economics at Columbia University, Economic Analysis of Complex Crimes Expert
Diego García-Sayán: the former President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Minister of Justice of Peru
Misha Glenny: award-winning journalist and historian
Justice Philippe Kirsch: former President of the International Criminal Court
Justice Isaac Lenaola: Justice of the Supreme Court of Kenya and Deputy Principal Judge of the East Africa Court of Justice
The Panel noted deficiencies and on this basis recommended that Viet Nam takes specific actions in compliance with their international legal obligations. Amongst others, that the General Inspectorate Police use the information in the Map of Facts and its update to conduct an investigation targeting individuals and networks identified.
They also made recommendations to other branches of the Vietnamese government including:
The establishment of a joint taskforce directed by the Office of Supreme Peoples’ Procuracy.
That the Government Inspectorate Authority undertake a review of vulnerable posts and trafficking routes to devise realistic and effective mechanisms to counter and prevent corrupt practices linked to organised crime.
Of the 16 recommendations made, other highlights include:
To establish a witness protection program and procedures to protect whistleblowers in cases of corruption and organised crime.
To allocate law enforcement resources to detect illegal wildlife trade on social media networks such as Facebook and WeChat and sanctions individuals conducting such trade
To use the information contained in the Map of Facts and its update to support intelligence gathering on syndicates involved in facilitating the illegal wildlife trade in, and from, Viet Nam.
To liaise with the relevant Chinese law enforcement counterparts to co-ordinate the exchange of intelligence and information in relation to the identified criminal networks, including the use of Chinese bank accounts and other methods used to facilitate money laundering.
That Viet Nam co-operate with international stakeholders and engage civil society networks as mandated by relevant international treaties to which Viet Nam is a party.
That CITES Standing Committee consider the suspension of trade in protected species as a sanction for non-compliance of previous CITES decisions.
Finally, the Panel recommended that all parties to the relevant international treaties take appropriate measures in support of Viet Nam to combat and prevent transnational organized wildlife crime in compliance with their obligations.
The Accountability Panel validated the WJC’s investigative findings and Map of Facts by determining that Nhi Khe is, and continues to be, a major hub for wildlife crime in protected species.
Ending global legal markets is a great plan A, but that alone won’t stop elephant poaching or stem the illegal consumption of ivory
It appears inevitable now that almost all legal domestic ivory markets will be closed. This is the plan A of a large consortium of animal rights and welfare organisations aimed at stopping elephant poaching – informed by the belief that legal trade provides cover for illegal trade and stimulates demand.
Do away with legal trade, say the ban proponents, and demand will fall. Any elephant ivory seen for sale will be illegal, resulting in the dual benefits of making it easy for law enforcement to take action and for consumers to avoid buying an illegal product. And increasingly this is a majority position. In September International Union for the Conservation of Nature adopted a motion recommending the closing of domestic ivory markets globally. A few weeks later in October a similar proposal was adopted at the 17th Conference of the Parties of Cities, the international convention that regulates wildlife trade.
The survival of elephants depends on what humans do now. Join us on Tuesday 22 November from 1-2.30pm to discuss how to save this threatened species
A wonderful and wide-ranging discussion of an immensely complex and emotionally-charged issue. Some final thoughts.
An entirely self-indulgent question, I will admit, but that’s my prerogative! This excellent panel give us measured hope for the future.
In many countries I’m afraid it will not possible. We often forget Central and West Africa where elephants are in many areas doomed. If we cannot stop the current elephant poaching crisis, your grandchildren will probably be able to see wild elephants only in a handful of African countries, in the Eastern and Southern Africa, tiny islands of elephants surrounded by oceans of people.
Yes, but unless we all redouble our efforts to combat poaching, build community support for conservation, reduce HEC, reduce trafficking (including through market closures), and dramatically reduce demand for ivory, the number of places with significant numbers of wild elephants, functioning as they should, will be very much smaller than now. But there is real hope!
I think so Karl, because high value tourism areas will be maintained. They might be private, however, like Ol Pejeta and Lewa in Kenya. Unfortunately, in getting to them you and your kids will drive through or fly over farms and livestock grazing lands because people have eradicated the wildlife.
You know what the word in English is for pest animals with no value – vermin. Current policy is in effect making wildlife vermin from the perspective of rural African communities.
Karl, I think that with increasing momentum to listen to the elephant specialists talking about the species, (not just local abundant populations in one or two countries), we can get ivory under control and poaching significantly lessened. And I strongly believe that if we don’t want simply islands of elephants but connected, migrating herds, we have to plan this now and in the next 5-10 years while we have something to work with. This applies in Asia too, where the IUCN Asian elephant specialist group just met last week. For all of those people who have or are going to have grandchildren the question is back to you all, are you with us? We need you to make your desire known to politicians and help us fund the work until the governments and corporations step up their funding and stewardship for elephants and their habitat.
Asian elephants are Monica Wrobel, whose organisation Elephant Family focuses on Asian elephants paints a frightening picture of the future.
In the past 100 years 90% of Asian elephant populations have been wiped out. Without action, this iconic animal could be facing extinction within 3 decades, which is why this species is listed as Endangered. They now number as few as 40,000 across 13 countries in Asia, with probably 60% occurring in India. Habitat loss (lack of food) and fragmentation of populations are causing declines, and then the results of that such as train strikes are killing them, as well as hunting (sometimes for ivory though not all elephants have tusks and females don’t have tusks). However, retaliatory killing for crop-raiding such as by electrocution traps hooked up to the mains wires, or setting out poison bait – such as poisoned pineapples are killing what these superb wild giants have been reduced to – crop pests, especially in places where people have settled and have no history of living with, or knowing how to live with elephants.
Habitat destruction and fragmentation is the obvious answer. It’s remarkable how well they’ve done in India and Sri Lanka when you think of the population pressures. Unfortunately, it looks like poaching for ivory is on the increase in India and carvers are still churning out the Ganeshas and Saraswatis. I’ve read how various states are planning corridors, etc.
In Asia though, we have hope by protecting and keeping habitat areas connected and working with both rural communities and experts alike to understand more where elephants need to move and what they need to eat. We can lessen the interaction between people and elephants and help people co-exist safely. We can work with governments and companies to rationally plan where land change will occur but we need to resource that research and those experts so they are ready with the answers! So there IS hope, but we need to act now. Importantly, as we attempt to get control globally on the battle against ivory and illegal poaching in Africa, we are learning tremendous lessons to be applied in Africa to protect space and empower people to allow our spectacular, largest land mammal still have room to roam. Our biggest project at the moment with other NGOs is our Corridors Campaign. http://elephant-family.org/what-we-do/campaigning/100-corridors
On email, Wim Kerkhoven asks why we can’t use funds from tourism to support local communities so they don’t turn to poaching.
There’s just not enough to go around, says Andrea Crosta.
Throughout Africa there are working examples of involving local communities in the way you suggest, it’s simply a drop in the ocean. There are million and millions of poor people and just a fraction of them is actually “blessed” with tourism. And you need just a few poachers and a couple of traffickers or brokers to create havoc. There;s a huge Human Toll behind the ivory trade and poor exploited people are a big part of it.
Thats the same situation here, in India. Even with tourism, the number of poor people who actually benefit from it i.e. whose lives are uplifted by its effects is a very small number. Whatever the solution is, it has to be more though out and must benefit the poor community in large.
Sometimes the reason is that entrenched big businesses that are not set up to provide significant benefits to the local people in and around the eco-tourism areas. Corruption is sometimes a problem too. Governments need to do more to support, facilitate, and otherwise help local initiatives and to require more equitable benefit sharing by the big operations. You are correct to say that ecotourism in Africa can generate ‘big bucks’, see the paper I referenced earlier: Naidoo R., Weaver C.L., Diggle R.W., Matongo G., Stuart-Hill G. & Thouless C. (2015) Complementary benefits of tourism and hunting to communal conservancies in Namibia. Conserv Biol.
I think community needs are greater than the support they are getting, especially in many African countries, but the rural poor in all countries where elephants range are too often left on their own. In reality, the places where wildlife still exists are in places where the most dis-enfranchised people live. They may not even know when there is a government compensation scheme that can help them. So I don’t think elephant populations always need to “pay for themselves” through trophy hunting or tourism income. But I think that better access to development aid, or government aid or even an NGO-started farming co-op and access to markets can boost the morale and empowerment of communities. Those communities also do not want to be a target for criminal gangs preying on the unemployed to poach. Strong communities are a very important part of this answer, and support so they can use techniques or understand elephant routes help prevent human-elephant interaction.
Dan Stiles says this is already underway in Kenya:
This is a critical question and in Kenya right now there is a group doing exactly that, planning protected corridors to be left open to connect protected areas and private conservancies. All range states should conduct such exercises, including cross-border corridors
Indeed! Elephants do need large areas of habitat and even in Africa we are now seeing habitat fragmentation and loss become a significant problem for elephant conservation. In Asia, of course, habitat loss has long been one of the biggest threats to elephants, which are now largely confined to protected areas, many of which are too small for long term viability and have huge HEC problems on their borders. Maintaining connectivity or restoring it if already lost is essential. Fortunately, as Dan notes there are some encouraging examples from countries such as Kenya and India but much more needs to be done in many more places.
For those feeling far away and helpless, here are some concrete actions you can take today.
I agree with lobbying governments. These should be considered World Heritage Animals and as global citizens we can help strengthen that argument and get more resources put towards Forest and Wildlife Departments. Stronger departments aid better resource management, and not only help provide stability locally, but can stand up for protection of habitat for the good of communities and wildlife. Preventing environmental damage (loss of forest, pollution, silting of rivers, floods, polluted water courses) which de-stabilises communities later. I also endorse that people worldwide support the conservation organisations that can help direct research and aid to experts and communities for bringing about local solutions.
No, say most panelists. Although there are some caveats.
I think the quote “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” applies here. Some of the most innovative community schemes have come about when trophy hunting was not an option, and then other aid schemes and other government departments participated in community well-being, not just under-resourced wildlife departments.
I’m not convinced that trophy hunting is essential to conserving elephants, at least elephant hunting, maybe other species. It’s a complicated question.
Trophy hunting is often the “lazy answer” of government that do not want to pro-actively protect wildlife and provide local communities with real economic development.
While I would personally never shoot an animal for its trophy there have been some successful examples of trophy hunting for some species generating revenues for – and encouraging pro-conservation attitudes among – local people. Trophy hunting has the potential to provide those benefits in remote, difficult places where there are few other options for wildlife-based landuses. Trophy hunting can therefore help keep significant areas of land under wildlife – land that might otherwise not be so used. But in some places trophy hunting operations have practised predator control, introduced species, or bred overly-developed trophies – all of which are bad for biodiversity conservation. So, yes, it’s complicated. It is also hard to see that trophy hunting is likely to ever play a significant role in elephant conservation. The amount of money generated by trophy hunting is also small relative to the funding needs for conservation in Africa, and so in some ways the heated debates post-Cecil are a distraction from the bigger issues. See: Lindsey P.A., Balme G.A., Funston P.J., Henschel P.H. & Hunter L.T.B. (2016) Life after Cecil: channelling global outrage into funding for conservation in Africa. Conservation Letters 9, 296-301.
Carey Ostrer has asked via email how we go about fighting the illegal trade when it is so lucrative?
Dan Stiles responds:
On the demand side, where consumers buy, law enforcement in pretty much every country has proven ineffective if high demand prevails. If shops are closed down, traders and consumers move to online websites and members only social media. Demand must be lowered, but this is a long process.
From the words of a wildlife enforcement specialist: “On illegal trade, investigation and enforcement is still woefully inadequate in the countries that matter (range states and consumer/transit countries.). There’s a need to recognise this is a crime problem and the response needs to be police led. Customs have demonstrated they have capacity, mandate and therefore little will to investigate the hundreds of ivory seizures made to date. Many techniques still aren’t being adopted, such as controlled deliveries, forensic analysis of crime scenes for links to suspects, and lack of proactive responses. Sources within the trade have indicated that serious offenders are only afraid of imprisonment if actually prosecuted, yet such a deterrent barely exists.
Dan is correct to stress the challenges inherent in demand reduction and there needs to be a much greater focus on effecting behavioural change not just raising awareness; we have seen to little of the former in demand reduction campaigns to date. But demand for wildlife products including ivory and rhino horn has been reduced in the past in a number of countries, so we know it can be done.
Elephants are wild animals and so conflict is hard to avoid, according to the panel. Consultant Dan Stiles says we can only control how humans respond.
For those who suffer the depredations of elephants, the only thing that has been demonstrated to prevent retaliation is if the people gain tangible benefits. Very few places have mechanisms in place for that now.
Conflict between humans and wildlife cannot be avoided. However solutions have to come from the people living with wildlife. Innovative ideas of how to live harmoniously can’t take a top down approach.
In addition to trying to ensure local people derive direct financial benefits from the presence of wildlife such as elephants whenever possible, a key part of mitigating human-elephant conflict (HEC) or human-wildlife conflict (HWC) more generally is to adopt a sound evidence-based approach to testing and promoting effective HEC/HWC reduction methods. There are methods that can help reduce HEC (under some circumstances at least) out there but they need to be deployed more effectively. Approaches such as insurance need to be further tested and developed too.
Most panelists, including Simon Hedges from WCS, agree that the Chinese mean it when they say they will phase out their legal ivory trade:
Yes, I think the Chinese Government is serious about shutting down the domestic market in ivory in China. That commitment was announced at the highest level in a joint communique from President Xi and President Obama in September 2015. Earlier this year the Chinese authorities said publicly that they would announce the timetable for implementing the ban, so we can expect to see that announcement soon.
While this is true, Chinese Govt hasn’t announced a date, even though Hong Kong has, which is 2020. Can we be sure that China is serious about this, even after we now that officials from high office are involved in the trade?
Re the ending of the domestic legal trade in China, whiles it will undoubtedly help we should also be aware that it is a recurring pattern in China that good laws can be passed but that enforcement failure can lead to unexpected results. China often resists legislation for as long as possible, then acts when the diplomatic costs become too high. But that is not the same as effective enforcement. China is a very big country, Beijing’s reach is less effective than many outsiders imagine, and enforcement may not be a priority. If you look at the overall movements in demand, the relatively recent surge in demand from Vietnam for both ivory and rhino horn: I suspect that the bulk of both are being smuggled into China — it’s a change of route rather than a drop in demand.
I’ve heard they will announce the plan in December. It will involve a phased closing, allowing ivory traders and factories to dispose of their stocks, as Hong Kong has done
Before our panel convenes at 1pm (GMT), here is some reading material that could provoke thoughts and questions.
We know that elephant populations are collapsing at a frightening rate and that the driving forces behind this collapse are a global appetite for ivory and, just as worryingly, human/elephant conflict for space and resources.
Today at the Hanoi Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade the UK Government has committed to spend an additional £13 million to help tackle all aspects of the illegal wildlife trade, doubling the UK’s current investment.
The announcement followed a keynote speech by the Duke of Cambridge who said species were being killed at a "horrifying" rate. His comments were echoed by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Angela Leadsom who committed to delivering real help and support to those governments at the meeting, including the host nation of Vietnam.
Animals are still being killed in horrifying numbers despite global efforts to stop the poaching crisis, says prince at Hanoi summit
Poachers killing Africa’s rhinos and elephants are still one step ahead of efforts to stop the multibillion wildlife trade, Prince William has warned.
Traffickers have become more sophisticated and increasingly brutal, and animals are dying in “horrifying numbers”, the Duke of Cambridge told an international wildlife summit in Hanoi, Vietnam on Thursday.
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