quinta-feira, 13 de fevereiro de 2014
London conference 2014: The world wakes up at elephants' eleventh hour
London conference 2014: The world wakes up at elephants' eleventh hour
Sunday 9 February 2014/ The Independent / http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/london-conference-2014-the-world-wakes-up-at-elephants-eleventh-hour-9117081.html
Delegates from about 50 countries will meet in London this week to try to end the slaughter that feeds the illegal market in ivory and rhino horn
The world has a real chance this week to halt the soaring slaughter of African elephants, rhinos and other animals. Over the past five years this has built up to an unprecedented wildlife crisis, threatening not only the existence of iconic species but the very stability of the countries involved.
A major international conference in London is bringing together all the key states involved in the illegal wildlife trade. Profits are now so big – up to $19bn (£11.6bn) annually – that organised crime gangs, rebel militias and even terrorist organisations are being drawn in, pushing the killing to ever greater heights and posing grave new problems of national and international security.
Across Africa, as many as 50,000 elephants are being shot down every year to satisfy the booming ivory market, in China above all; while rhinos are being slaughtered in record numbers for their horn, believed in some Asian countries such as Vietnam – entirely erroneously – to have important medical properties. The poaching rates mean that both animals are on the slope to extinction. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 wildlife rangers have been killed trying to stop the poachers.
The unparalleled butchery, which has been the subject of the campaign in The Independent and The Independent on Sunday over the past two months, has seemed during the last year to be entirely out of control, but this week's conference will seek an international political commitment to end it.
The meeting is the brainchild of the Prince of Wales and his son William, the Duke of Cambridge, and is being hosted by the British government at Lancaster House in London on Thursday. It will be attended by high-level delegations from about 50 countries, with, crucially, a delegation from China, whose presence was not assured until recently. At least four African heads of state will be attending: the presidents of Chad, Gabon, Botswana and Tanzania.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, there will be a preliminary scientific symposium at the Zoological Society of London, in Regent's Park, involving the world's largest wildlife conservation charities, which have been brought together in a special alliance, named United for Wildlife, by the Duke of Cambridge.
Today Prince Charles and Prince William are releasing a video urging people all around the world to come together to support the anti-wildlife-trade cause. "Despite the terrible crisis that we now face, we both continue to be optimistic that the tide can be reversed," Prince William says in the film.
"We have to be the generation that stopped the illegal wildlife trade, and secured the future of these magnificent animals and their habitats, for, if we fail, it will be too late."
The Government, with the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, leading the way, wants a strong declaration of intent to act from the countries involved. It will also seek to make the conference an annual event to check progress, which would be a major step forward. Currently, the United Nations wildlife trade enforcement body, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), meets in full only once every three years.
UK ministers have already promised £10m in funding to back the approach, which will focus on three areas: strengthening law enforcement and the criminal justice system; supporting the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by poaching; and reducing demand for illegal wildlife products.
This last factor is the crux of the whole matter. All eyes will be on the Chinese, as many conservationists believe that the only way to end the poaching crisis effectively is for China to abolish its ivory market – that is, not just get rid of illegal ivory but outlaw the sale of ivory altogether.
"There's no point even talking about elephant killing if you don't address the problem of China," said the Conservative MP and former editor of The Ecologist magazine, Zac Goldsmith, who has been a prominent campaigner against the ivory trade.
"And the reality is that focusing on the illegal stuff is a side-show. The real issue is the legal ivory.
"So long as there's a legal trade, it will be possible to disguise the illegal trade, allowing it flourish. You just have to look at the map. The demand for ivory from China alone massively exceeds supply – in other words, the number of elephants. It's off the scale. So, unless you deal with the legal stuff, you can't hope to stop the illegal stuff; and unless you do that, the elephants are going to be gone within 10 to 15 years. It's now or never, really. "
Another long-time elephant campaigner, Will Travers, president of the Born Free Foundation, makes exactly the same point. "The answer is, close down the legal ivory market in China," he said. "End the government-licensed carving factories. Get rid of the remains of the legal stockpile that they have been drip-feeding into the market, thereby sustaining the trade. Just get rid of it. This is their opportunity to really step up, and they would be applauded universally for doing so."
Philip Mansbridge, chief executive of the charity Care for the Wild, said yesterday: "We're at crisis point for key species, so this summit is vital and timely. But we need action, not just words: the UK should commit 0.5 per cent of its foreign aid budget annually. We must support a range states in defending the animals, and we need China to outlaw ivory. Now."
"Imagine," says Will Travers, president of the animal rescue and conservation charity the Born Free Foundation, "if Africans were creeping over to China and poaching pandas, because they thought that wearing panda skin, or putting a piece of panda round your neck in a bag, was going to bring you great good fortune. The Chinese would be incandescent.
"It's already the death penalty for killing pandas in China. So I think it's important that the Chinese understand what losing elephants means to Africa and to Africans. They are the iconic species, along with the lions, for Africa."
Mr Travers's foundation came out of the conservation work his actor parents Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna undertook after they starred in the 1966 film Born Free, about British couple George and Joy Adamson releasing to the wild in Kenya the orphan lion cub they had raised, Elsa.
And, like many conservationists, he lays the blame for the current poaching crisis squarely at the door of China and its ivory market.
"Africa and its wildlife are being hammered by trade to the Far East and to China in particular," he said.
"But now the Chinese have the opportunity, almost in one fell swoop, to remove some of the ongoing and relentless criticism they face in relation to Africa and Africa's natural resources.
"They will become the economic powerhouse of the world within the next 10 years, and with that position comes enormous responsibility.
"They can demonstrate that responsibility by closing down their ivory market. That would show international leadership, but it would also show the respect that Africa is due."
Mr Travers added: "This is a true crisis for wildlife. If we have not got it within our capacity and within our humanity to save and protect elephants, rhinos, tigers and lions, and the great apes, then nothing is safe, because nothing can capture our imagination and speak to our souls like those species. If we can't protect those, nothing is safe – it's open season on everything else."
Nobody knows precisely how many elephants are being killed annually across Africa's vastness, but there is no doubt that it is in the tens of thousands. The most frequent estimates suggest it is in the range of 25,000 to
year, but one recent estimate by Dr Sam Wasser, head of the Center for
Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, worked out from the
number of illegally traded tusks being seized, suggests the annual figure may
be as high as 52,000.
There are, however, precise figures for the explosion in poaching of South Africa's rhinos. In 2007, 13 animals were killed; in 2008, the figure was 83; in 2009, it was 122; in 2010, it was 333; in 2011, it was 448; in 2012, it was 668; and last year it was 1,004.
The reason is simple: in Vietnam, where it is erroneously seen as a valuable medicine, rhino horn can be traded at an astonishing $65,000 (£40,000) per kilo. It is now worth more than gold and platinum, and is more valuable on the black market than diamonds or cocaine.
As for ivory, the price is now up to $3,000 a kilo, so a typical elephant could bring a poacher $30,000.
Why the upsurge?
An epidemic of elephant poaching to supply the ivory market in the late 1980s was brought to a halt in 1989 when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) banned the worldwide trade in ivory products.
Poaching levels then dropped throughout the 1990s; but picked up again in the mid-2000s, and according to a United Nations report published last December, they have "jumped dramatically from 2009".
Many observers think the upturn was directly related to the fact that in July 2008 China was given permission, for the first time, to take part in a "one-off" legal sale of 108 tonnes of ivory from four southern African countries – South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe – whose elephant populations were regarded at the time as relatively healthy and well-managed.
At the time, conservationists, more than 150 MPs and The Independent – with its entire front page – warned that this would have dire consequences, but Britain nevertheless voted in favour of the move in the Cites Standing Committee.
It was widely assumed that the then-Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, insisted on the vote because he did not wish to risk upsetting the economically influential Chinese.
On February 13th, 50 heads of state SIGN UP TODAY! FIVE STEPS TO STOP THE ILLEGAL KILLING OF ELEPHANTS
and governments have been invited by David Cameron to a conference in London to address the illegal trade in wildlife parts.
TELL THEM THEY MUST:
Train and equip wildlife rangers who risk their lives stopping poachers.
Educate people, particularly in Asia, about the true cost of buying illegal ivory.
Stamp down on corruption and enforce adequate laws to punish those responsible.
Uphold the existing ban on the international trade in ivory.
Support local people in poaching hot-spots benefit from wildlife conservation.
Help ensure our leaders stop the poaching crisis in Africa once and for all. It’s easy, sign our petition today.
Manifesto: You donated the money, now we tell you how it will be spent
Wednesday 12 February 2014 / http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/manifesto-you-donated-the-money-now-we-tell-you-how-it-will-be-spent-9124381.html
Every penny you gave will go directly into projects in the field
The Elephant Appeal has been the most successful campaign in The Independent’s history, raising more money for this urgent cause than any other campaign since the paper’s foundation.
This has been due to the generosity of you – our readers – who have so far helped raise some £450,000. The money is continuing to come in so it is hoped to top half a million pounds before the appeal finishes.
Every penny will be spent on projects in the field through our charity partner, Space for Giants. New teams of rangers are already being recruited and put through rigorous training due to our readers’ donations.
This, however, is only the start. In the coming months, and years, the money will help ensure:
1. Local communities will be brought into the conservation fight:
The people who live in poaching areas provide the best intelligence on poaching activity. Programmes will educate them about wildlife devastation and its impact on local economies, not least the effect on tourism.
2. Boots on the ground:
With poaching gangs now often working on behalf of criminal networks seeking to reap vast profits from the illegal sale of ivory and other animal parts, conservationists face an increasingly well-organised and well-equipped enemy.
Extra teams of rangers operating in central Kenya will help protect animals in safe-havens.
3. More is known about elephant migration habits:
GPS tracking collars enable herds to be tracked. This not only gives early-warning if elephants approach poaching hot-spots but helps prevent conflict with local farmers and protects their crops.
4. The establishment of a new conservancy:
The final steps are being agreed to secure a new conservancy in central Kenya that will have the latest high-tech security apparatus to keep the animals within its borders safe. This will help ensure herds of elephants will be safe, forever.
As well as our readers, a generous donation was received from the Prudential, while artists such as Damien Hirst, the Chapman Brothers and Tracey Emin kindly donated specially created artworks to be auctioned off for the appeal. The Gertler Family Foundation – which is the largest charitable organisation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – also generously backed the campaign as part of its efforts to protect and re-introduce wildlife to central Africa. Previously, the foundation had helped rebuild several hospitals in the country and supported a number of schools, as well as assisting in the supporting of an agricultural training academy to teach modern farming techniques in Kinshasa.
Recently, however, it has also begun discussions with Brooklyn Zoo, which has an advanced elephant breeding programme. There are at present almost no wild elephants in the DRC as they have been poached almost to extinction. It is now hoped they can be reintroduced into protected areas.
The foundation has also been a long-term supporter of Lubumbashi Zoo, which had fallen into decay as the country descended into chaos. It has been restored into a functioning zoo again with its animal habitats and buildings rebuilt.