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Polar bear skin

No more of this in the EU?


The EU Directorate of Environment has now submitted draft changes to the EU Council and Parliament that will require import permits for hunting trophies of the following species:

White rhino
Argali (a mountain sheep from central Asia)

Polar bear

The Council and Parliament are expected to approve the changes before the end of 2014.

As we explained earlier , this gives the EU member states much greater independent control over existing CITES regulations, and allows member states to refuse imports of hunting trophies of those species for which the EU Scientific Review Group is not satisfied that the offtake is sustainable and/or that insufficient information is available about population numbers to justify continued trophy hunting offtake. In addition, existing “negative opinions” arrived at by the EU Scientific Review Group will now carry over to all hunting trophies from those listed species as well.

This greater latitude over imports of what were once items (hunting trophies were considered “household and personal effects”) exempt from trade considerations under CITES is meaningful and encouraging to say the least.

It is highly interesting to us to see inclusion of the Polar bear on this list. As you might remember, during the last CITES Conference of Parties in March 2013, the EU joined the USA and Russia among other nations to support listing of Polar bears on CITES Appendix I. This would have halted all further trade in Polar bears – but ALL EU votes were then nullified by resistance from Denmark (the EU votes as a bloc but all member states need to agree, otherwise the entire EU has to abstain, a loss of 28 votes).

The uplisting of Polar bears was defeated, but now, as with lions, the EU can make decisions independently (and more stringently) than CITES. It will be very interesting to follow the future changes of Polar bear trophies into the EU.

The USA has already banned Polar bear hunting trophies. Within the EU, Denmark (perhaps the reason for their objection) is the largest importer of Polar bear products with 150 skins alone over the five year period 2008-2012 – from a rapidly declining species? Was the information that Denmark had to resist the uplisting based on better information about the status of Polar bears not available to other nations or did the Danes bow to pressure from vested commercial interest groups in their Greenland Dependency?

These sorts of self-interested decisions will hopefully now not be able to influence trade in significantly endangered species by continued commerce, as any EU member state has the right to raise objections to further imports of products from the species now listed. That objection will now need to be dealt with scientifically rather than politically.

The EU Environment Directorate is to be thanked for this positive development, and we urge them to consider the entire issue of “sustainability” of trophy hunting offtake of a greater variety of species in the future.

 The relevant text of the EU is as follows :

“The European Commission has proposed to introduce changes to Commission Regulation 865/2006 and to Commission Implementing Regulation 792/2012.
Those changes are designed to:

introduce the requirement that import permits would need to be issued by EU Member States for the first introduction into the EU of hunting trophies of specimens of six species or populations included in Annex B of Regulation 338/97 (Ceratotherium simum simum, Hippopotamus amphibius, Loxodonta africana, Ovis ammon, Panthera leo, Ursus maritimus);

clarify that import permits should not be issued by EU Member States in cases where, despite a request to this end, they do not obtain satisfactory information from the exporting or re-exporting country as to the legality of the specimens to be imported into the EU.
In accordance with Article 19 of Regulation 338/97, the Committee on wildlife trade has given a favourable opinion to those changes.

The text of the draft Regulation amending Regulation 865/2006 has been subsequently sent to the Council and the European Parliament for their right of scrutiny. Unless the Council or the Parliament objects to the adoption of this Regulation (which can be done within a period of three months after receiving the document), the changes to Regulation 865/2006 will be adopted at the end of 2014. The adoption of the changes to Regulation 792/2012 will occur at the same time.”

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Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 17:27

A win for lions!!!!

Wednesday 17th September 2014

A win for lions 

Soon no longer importable


Today we received an e-mail from Gael de Rotalier of the European Commission. He mentioned that the Commission had now proposed the requirement of an import permit for all lion trophies. He felt that there should be no opposition for adoption by the EU Parliament or Council, and that import permits will be adopted by the end of this year or early in 2015.

Why is this important?

The EU Wildlife Trade Regulation (WTR) usually follows CITES, but can impose stricter regulations. The EU WTR is regularly monitored by the Scientific Review Group to determine whether trade in such species is sustainable and conducive to conservation aims.

The Scientific Review Group has already passed “negative opinions” on lion imports from Benin, Burkina Faso and Cameroon, and has placed “suspensions” on Ethiopia .

“Negative opinions” mean that the Scientific Review Group is not satisfied that continued utilization of lions in those countries is favourable to their conservation. But even with these “negative opinions”, lion trophies are still allowed into the EU.

Why? Because hunting trophies are currently exempted from trade regulations as they are considered “household and personal effects” and therefore receive what is called a “derogation”.

When the import permits for lions come into effect, these “negative opinions” will automatically extend to hunting trophies as well, so that no further imports of trophies from Benin, Burkina Faso and Cameroon will be allowed into the EU.

LionAid has been working tirelessly for several years to get this derogation removed, and it seems it will now become a reality. We have had meetings with the Commission as well as Members of European Parliament to communicate the urgent conservation needs of wild lions in Africa (of which there are likely not more than 15,000 on the entire continent, down from about 200,000 fifty years ago) and that trophy hunting is a needless source of further mortality.

We will also now work with the European Commission to take a very close look at those countries that now enjoy a “positive opinion” in terms of lion trophy imports – Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa.

With the requirement of an import permit, the EU can require a much better evaluation of how well those populations are faring while being subjected to trophy hunting offtakes.

We need not remind you that we are entirely dependent on donations to continue this important work to achieve these results.

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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. 

1 Comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 17:25

Polar bear uplisting defeated by EU abstentions - again.

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.


 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 17:42

European Parliament Workshop on Wildlife Crime

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

Resolution of Recommendations to CITES is Passed by European Parliament

                                  Some good progress, meanwhile I’m keeping my eye on you

On Feb 6th, the EU Parliament passed the Motion for a Resolution to present a unified recommendation by Member States to the CITES Conference of Parties on a number of issues. The EU as a bloc holds 27 votes apart from further influence. What the EU Parliament voted for, inter alia, was the following:


1. Transparency of decision making and a strong call to base decisions on scientific information;

2. Encouragement of the Precautionary Principle in all decisions made by CITES, meaning that when not enough information is available on the effect of trade on conservation of a particular species, that one should err on the side of caution;

3. Rejection of any calls to legalize ivory trade;

4. Supporting a call by Kenya to halt trophy hunting of rhinos in South Africa;

5. Reducing all national trophy hunting exports of CITES Appendix I and Appendix II species; urging the CITES Parties to stop unsustainable and unethical trophy hunting which has caused large-scale declines in African lion populations;

6. Regretting that no proposal was submitted by an African lion range State to transfer the lion from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I;

7. Transfer of polar bears to CITES Appendix I;

8. Further good resolutions in terms of sharks, manatees, crocodiles, amphibians, birds, trees, etc.


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

The European Union loves crocodiles, alligators and lizards

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!

2. The Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus): 26,685 kg of meat were imported by Belgium from Zimbabwe. Crocodile burgers anyone? France imported 4,732 skin pieces via Singapore and 8,528 complete skins via Singapore. 39,989 skins came direct from Zimbabwe. Italy imported 15,280 skins direct from Zimbabwe.

3. The Salt Water Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus): France imported 5,244 plus 9,066 skins from Australia, 2,336 skins from New Guinea, and 2,424 skins via Singapore from Australia.

4. The Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis): France imported 1,222 skins from Thailand and 455 skins from Vietnam.

5. Pythons from Africa and Asia – many, many thousands of skins from a number of Python species to Italy and Germany mainly. Six hundred kilos of Python meat were sent to Belgium from Vietnam.

6. Varanid lizards – very many thousands of skins to France and Italy from Mali, Chad, Myanmar, Indonesia.


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. 


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Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 11:42

Increased protection proposed for western and central African lions

During the World Conservation Congress at its 5th Session in Jeju, Republic of Korea, which will be held from 6-15th September 2012, a motion on large mammal conservation in West and Central Africa will be submitted.

Large mammal populations in protected areas in west and central Africa have declined by 85% between the period 1970 and 2005. Large carnivores like the African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus), Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and Lion (Panthera leo) are now extirpated from many former range states in West and Central Africa, with evidence for only few reproducing populations in the region.
Studies revealing genetic distinctiveness of a number of large mammal species occurring in the region such as Lion, Roan Antelope, and Giraffe will be considered. LionAid supports this submission and urges the IUCN to urgently revise the official status of western and central African lions on their Red List (upgrading to “endangered” or more appropriately, “critically endangered”). In addition, we would urge CITES and the European Commission to carefully review any trade in western and central African lions including trophy hunting. Finally, LionAid would urge not only adoption of the motion, but formulation of a number of enactable Action Plans to substantially address and reverse these declines.


Picture credit:

Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 18:30

 EU import ban for all  wild lion trophies from South Africa.

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

Biodiversity and the European Community

Sunday 4th December 2011

Biodiversity and the European Community

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