World Rhino Day on Eve of Critical Trade Talks
September 22, World Rhino Day, has seen delegates from over 180 countries arriving in South Africa for a wildlife trade meeting to discuss international efforts to address record poaching levels of Africa’s rhinos.
A status report by the NGO TRAFFIC and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) prepared to inform decision makers attending the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting revealed a record 1,342 rhinos were poached in Africa last year.
“This crucial meeting of CITES Parties must be the rallying point for the international community to support and assist rhino range states in ending this global poaching crisis,” said Sabri Zain, TRAFFIC’s Director of Policy.
TRAFFIC is calling for effective implementation of updated legislative measures aimed at tackling illegal trade in rhino products in Mozambique and Vietnam, two of the countries most heavily implicated in the rhino poaching crisis.
Taking a Tough Line With Vietnam
Vietnam as a major consumer of rhino horn also needs to step up its efforts to discourage the use of horn through targeted consumer behavior change measures.
“Vietnam’s poor law enforcement record speaks for itself: ending the illegal rhino horn trade and helping to save Africa’s rhinos is clearly not a priority for the government,” said Ginette Hemley, WWF Head of Delegation to CITES. “With around three rhinos being poached each day, there is no time to lose. CITES must take a tough line with Vietnam: swiftly implement critical measures to tackle the illegal rhino horn trade or face trade sanctions.”
Specifically, Vietnam must agree to enact new regulations to treat wildlife crime as a ‘serious crime’ with a minimum sentence of four years in prison; legislate to treat fake rhino horn as real rhino horn for enforcement and prosecution purposes; and successfully target and prosecute illegal traders and traffickers. Otherwise, CITES must call on countries to prohibit trade with Vietnam in all CITES-regulated wildlife.
Engaging Chinese Tourists
With the steady increase in overseas travel, there have been more frequent reports of smuggling of ivory and other endangered wildlife products from Africa and Southeast Asia involving tourists of Chinese origin. Initial investigations have shown that, besides those involved in intentional crime, up to one third of suspects still claim to be completely ignorant of international trade controls on ivory and other wildlife products. The engagement of the tourism industry and related services sectors, especially those offering tours to Africa and Southeast Asia, is therefore of huge significance in raising awareness.
“China Tourism Administration has been focusing on wildlife conservation as a top priority and compelling obligation,” said Tang Bing, Director of the Supervision Division, China Tourism Administration, earlier this year.
“We will further strengthen governance of the tourism sector’s operations, improve training materials for tour guides, strengthen advocacy for those servicing the industry and for overseas travelers and include wildlife conservation as one of the tourism sector’s assessment criteria for selection as an industry 2016 Civilized Tourism Champion.”
Earlier this year, Carnival Corporation became one of the newest corporate partners of the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, a coalition of non-profit organizations, companies, foundations and media interests that work closely with the U.S. government in a collaboration to reduce the purchase and sale of illegal wildlife products in the United States.
Carnival Corporation's partnership includes providing education, awareness and training for its 120,000 worldwide employees on the identification of illegal wildlife products and the harm created by this trade. It also includes providing awareness of wildlife crime to its 11 million cruise guests across its 10 global brands, and the development of programs to communicate with vendors and suppliers about the dangers of illegal wildlife trafficking.
Kilindini Port Key to Trade
Kenya is taking a bold stand against wildlife crime through improved enforcement action, higher penalties for wildlife criminals, and last year it was the only African range State to report a significant fall in the numbers of rhinos poached.
Nevertheless, the country’s Kilindini Port in Mombassa is highlighted as a key source and transit point for wildlife commodities exiting Africa due to weaknesses in laws governing wildlife trafficking, corruption and high demand in Asia, according to a USAID-funded report launched by TRAFFIC and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Kilindini Port is an important exit point from Africa for illegally traded wildlife products from countries including Tanzania, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Zambia and South Sudan.
“To stop the killing will require a multi-faceted approach that addresses poaching, trafficking, and demand,” says WWF. “The focus should be on implementing effective conservation in Africa and ensuring robust enforcement in source, transit, and consumer countries, while simultaneously changing consumer behavior in Asia. Only when demand for rhino horn decreases will we see a decline in poaching.”
The Buckingham Palace Declaration
In March, 40 CEOs and other senior figures of airlines, shipping firms, port operators, customs agencies, intergovernmental organizations and conservation charities, including TRAFFIC, became the founding signatories of the Declaration of the United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products during an event that took place at Buckingham Palace in the U.K.
The Buckingham Palace Declaration is the result of a year’s worth of meetings, research, and coalition building by the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce. Transport representatives on the Taskforce include companies and organizations based in China, Denmark, Kenya, UAE, the U.K. and U.S.
The Buckingham Palace Declaration commits signatories to eleven commitments that will raise standards across the transportation industry to prevent traffickers from exploiting weaknesses as they seek to move their products covertly from killing field to marketplace. The commitments focus on information sharing, staff training, technological improvements and resource sharing across companies and organizations worldwide. They will also see the world’s leading transportation firms assisting those in poorer nations who are in need of expertise and new systems.