Thursday 7th March 2013
Early this morning, the vote was taken on uplisting polar bears from Appendix II to Appendix I (no more international trade, greater conservation measures, more available funding for research). The proposal was brought by the USA and the Russian Federation, and opposed by Canada, WWF, Norway, Denmark and even the CITES Secretariat. Polar bears lost by a vote of 42 to 38 with 46 abstentions. Many country delegates did not show up for the vote – CITES has 178 members.
As with the vote in 2010 on the same issue, it was ultimately the EU that can take the blame. There have been proposals that the EU Member States (27 now, soon to be 28) vote as a bloc, as after all they are a united trading group in terms of wildlife products. The bloc vote proposal remains without progress, but meanwhile the EU Member States have decided to discuss CITES issues internally and then come up with a consensus decision counting for 27 votes.
On the polar bear issue, the UK, Germany, Poland and Belgium were pushing other member states to vote for uplisting. Denmark (that administers Greenland and therefore could somehow be called a polar bear range state though the only polar bears in Denmark are at places like the Copenhagen Zoo and feature as rugs on floors) opposed as they stated Greenland already has sufficient protection measures in place. Strange that Denmark did not see value of expanding similar levels of protection to other polar bear populations?
Denmark indicated their delegates would vote against the uplisting no matter what, and therefore seemed to throw the EU vote into disarray - there could now be no consensus opinion. It begs the question why this needs to happen anyway as the EU consists of a diverse array of sovereign states with different opinions on a number of matters. Citizens of Greece might expect their Government to take stances on environmental and conservation issues that could perhaps be different from citizens in Romania, Hungary, Lithuania, Sweden, etc. Greece does not import polar bear skins? The insistence on a unified vote on any issue therefore leads to anaemic and pathetic actions rather than what is urgently required, and is not even a reality within the EU as the necessity of a bloc vote remains in bureaucratic limbo.
But that confusion seemed to strangely dominate the polar bear vote. Denmark somehow took the entire EU out of voting, and all other Member States could do little, according to them, but abstain. If the EU states had wanted to counter the Denmark vote they could have under current legislation, and thus voted with their conscience. That is what their citizens would have wanted, and now we hope the EU CITES delegations will be held to task by their taxpaying funders for their lack of backbone.
Canada, meanwhile, ran a big PR campaign. They dragged out representatives from their indigenous Inuit (Eskimo) communities to speak at the Convention. They said their children would starve if their right to sell polar bear skins and trophies was taken away from the impoverished communities. Nobody seemed to be capable of asking Canada, a wealthy nation, why they were not providing adequate Government funding to prevent children in their indigenous communities from starving, but perhaps that was not allowed under CITES rules.
Meanwhile, Danes should hang their heads in shame. Once again, it is politics and not conservation that drives the CITES process.
Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 17:42
Friday 1st March 2013
We were delighted to be invited to participate in a new, innovative workshop, organised by Mr Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy ((MEP, Netherlands) and Mr Kriton Arsenis (MEP, Greece), on the subject of Wildlife Crime.
"The EU does not tackle the problem of wildlife crime sufficiently. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put the issue high on the agenda of the USA. It's high time for the EU to also develop an action plan to fight wildlife crime" said Mr Gerbrandy.
The event took place on the 27th February in the European Parliament in Brussels and lasted for 2.5 hours. Our 16 minute presentation can be viewed by clicking the link here.
If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, DONATE to support our work to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you.
Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 19:17
Friday 8th February 2013
Some good progress, meanwhile I’m keeping my eye on you
1. Transparency of decision making and a strong call to base decisions on scientific information;
We would encourage the European Union to not only propose these changes to CITES, but also act within their EU Wildlife Trade Regulations that currently mirror CITES but can benefit from independent and perhaps better regulations by EU Member States. The USA is currently considering listing of the African lion on their Endangered Species Act independent of CITES evaluations. The EU could do the same and set a trend for better conservation of a myriad of other species involved in international trade.
Most importantly, the EU WTR should immediately close many loopholes allowed by CITES to trade in listed species – most urgently to get rid of the “personal and household effects” derogation that exempts about 70% of lion products (trophies) to be considered as trade. Exemptions from trade should not be allowed as all trade influences conservation.
As a result of this Resolution, the EU Parliament instructs its President to forward same to the Council, the Commission, the Parties to CITES and the CITES Secretariat.
If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, financially support us to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you.
Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 17:15
Thursday 6th September 2012
Very recently, data on wildlife imports by the European Union became available on the web. You can access it here.
It takes a bit of time to go through as it is an Excel database and as the site assumes you know the scientific names for all species. Nevertheless, it is the best source available to see how countries in the EU contribute to the international wildlife trade via imports. The data are only for 2010.
We focus here only on the imports of crocodile, alligator, python, and varanid (lizard) skins because the numbers are eye-popping. The database also helpfully provides countries of origin and secondary countries that assisted in the trade. So here we go for some numbers…
1. The American Alligator (Alligator missisipiensis): France imported 35,800 skins from Singapore (origin USA) and 122,541 skins direct from the USA. France also imported 27,233 products via China and 186,101 products from Taiwan. In addition, 38,234 skins went to Italy and 42,731 skins to Germany. All in 2010!
You get the point by now. Italy, France and Germany want huge numbers of skins of CITES listed reptiles to make and sell shoes, handbags, belts and more. Belgians seem to want to eat them rather than wear them. We have not yet reported the equally astonishing level of trade in The Canadian Lynx (Lynx canadensis) and The Bobcat (Lynx rufus) skins to European destinations (mainly Greece).
If we want to be critical of the trade in rhino horn, elephant ivory and lion bones from Africa to Asian countries, cannot we also level the same degree of criticism on this European trade in the skin trade in endangered and vulnerable species? Let’s have France, Italy and Germany stop this trade in reptile skins which is all really to satisfy “fashion”? Many of these skins, it could be argued, come from “farms” – crocodile and alligator farming is big business. Nevertheless, many skins also are harvested from the wild and mixed in with the “farmed” skins.
Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 11:42
Monday 21st May 2012
Picture credit: http://bit.ly/KDwZ39
Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 18:30
Friday 13th January 2012
LionAid recently revealed the great discrepancy between “wild” lion sport hunting trophies exported yearly from South Africa (an average of 265 per year over 2000-2009 according to CITES records) and the very small number of truly “wild” lions available (perhaps 15 per year from hunting concessions bordering on Kruger National Park for example).
LionAid is delighted to be able to report that the Scientific Review Group (SRG) of the EC Wildlife Trade Regulations has considered the issue, and recently formed a “negative opinion” on all wild lion specimens originating from South Africa. This means there is an import ban in place as of 10th November 2011 into the European Union for all lion trophies from South Africa designated as “wild”.
The Scientific Review Group judged that “wild” lion trophies (and all other lion products designated by CITES export permits as coming from a “wild” source) were being mislabelled. In other words, the SRG formed the same opinion as LionAid – there was either a “leakage” of captive bred lions into the “wild” category, and/or that such “wild” lion trophies might have originated from neighbouring countries (Zimbabwe, Mozambique) and declared in South Africa.
Such mislabelling had been going on for many years, and we commend the SRG for this decision. It will not prevent “captive bred” trophies from being imported into the EU, but stands as a clear message to the exporting authorities and hunting operators in South Africa that mislabelling will no longer be tolerated by the European Union.
We have also been assured in a meeting with the EU Directorate General for the Environment on January 11th that they will place all African lion imports into the EU on SRG agendas this year, with special emphasis on western and central African lion populations.
The decision by the SRG on South African wild lions indicates once again the value of careful consideration of scientific data to guide informed opinions and policies. The SRG can revise the negative opinion in the future, but in the mean time a clear message has been sent to South Africa – amend your reporting to end mislabelling and fraudulent declarations, or suffer an import ban to the European Union. We would strongly advise the USA Management Authority (the US Fish and Wildlife Service) to take note of the SRG decision and follow suit. After all, close to 70% of “wild” South African lion trophies are imported into the USA…
Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 17:43
Sunday 4th December 2011
On May 3, 2011, the European Commission published a “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions” called (optimistically) “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020”.
It contains the usual folderol, but there is a very interesting section in “Target 6: Help avert global biodiversity loss”. Under Action 17 “Reduce indirect drivers of biodiversity loss”, the communication states “… the EU will take measures…to reduce the biodiversity impacts of EU consumption patterns, particularly for resources that have negative effects on biodiversity” -17a.
This would apply directly to the EU consumption of lion trophies, especially those from western and central Africa, where France is the major consumer. As explained before, these lions are genetically distinct from all other lions in Africa, are highly endangered, are losing populations at a great rate (locally extinct in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Congo by 2010 surveys; Nigeria has 39 lions left, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Benin still allow trophy hunting despite greatly declining populations), and should be immediately be declared prohibited imports to the EU.
Also, the communication states “ The Commission will work with Member States and key stakeholders to provide the right market signals for biodiversity conservation, including work to reform, phase out, and eliminate harmful subsidies at both EU and Member State level, and to provide positive incentives for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use” – 17c.
This would, inter alia, hopefully provide a means of phasing out EU and UK subsidies for the Botswana beef industry that is greatly destructive of biodiversity in that country (see our blog on that matter here
We will be bringing this matter up when we meet with the Cabinet Member of the EC Commissioner for Environment on January 11, 2012.
Photo credit: David Dugmore
Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 16:18