Priority actions under CITES

CITES has posted a useful summary of the main outcomes from the annual meeting of its Standing Committee last week. Several areas relating to ongoing ITC work include:

The need to understand more about characteristics of demand for wildlife products from Traditional Chinese Medicine – ITC is planning a literature review, particularly with respect to rhino horn.

Support for traceability in python skin supply chains – ITC is working with Kering and IUCN Boa and Python Specialist Species Group on this issue in Viet Nam and Indonesia.

Madagascar Nile Crocodile trade ban lifted, although subject for a year to a zero export quota to allow time for inventories to be made – ITC will work with Kering and IUCN Specialist Crocodile Group on strengthening sustainability of sourcing and livelihoods associated with the trade.

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Wildlife consumption in China

In Conservation and Biology, an article on wildlife consumption in China

Although attitudes are changing towards a recognition that wildlife should not be consumed, there has been little change in wildlife consumption in China:

“An attitudinal survey on wildlife consumption and conservation awareness was conducted in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming and Nanning of China recently. Comparison with the results from a similar survey we did in 2004, after 8 years, the proportion of respondents who had consumed wildlife was dropped slightly from 31.3 % down to 29.6 %. I

The results also showed that 52.7 % agreed that wildlife should not be consumed, which was significantly increased comparison with the survey result of 42.7 % in 2004.

Consumers with higher income and higher educational background were having higher wildlife consumption rate”.

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CITES Standing Committee – Day 2 snippets

ITC is attending the CITES Standing Committee (its annual meeting) this week. The week long meeting attracts 140 or so Party delegates (national environment officials) and another hundred of so NGO and international organization observers.
ITC has taken the opportunity to present its work on biodiversity at several side events during the week.
ITC’s press release explains further and I shall blog at a later date about some of the content:

Outside of organizing the side events, I have found some time to listen in to the discussion between Parties on the many different resolutions relating to trade in wildlife. One snippet today is the discussion on the poaching crisis of elephants. On one aspect of this, many Parties believe that destroying stockpiles “sends a message” that the ivory trade is wrong. They also advocate reducing demand and using legal measures to stop the illegal trade. Kenya for example took the view that this is the right route to “winning this war”. Notably, South Africa and Namibia stood out with an alternative said today that they believe that ivory stocks should not be destroyed as they are a national resource as enshrined in the national constitution of the former.

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Both wildlife law enforcement and sustainable use failing in Indonesia

The Brooking Institute published a report on the illegal trade in birds and other wildlife in Indonesia. Authored by Vanda Velbab-Brown, it concludes that neither sustainable use or law enforcement strategies are working. The key lies in reducing consumer demand. A fine report that begs the question, if and how can demand be reduced.

The story is a familiar one. Poverty drives people to collect animals. Cultural preferences drive ever great demand for bushmeat, Traditional Chinese Medicine ingredients and pets. As a result, the forests are being cleaned out of their fauna. Eco-tourism is used to offer alternative livelihoods to poachers but as in Madagascar, the initiatives are fragile. in one initiative for example, when supply of eco tourists fell, the pressure from poaching intensified again. Countries like Kenya are more suitable for safaris and eco-tourism that more remote regions.

Success is also predicated on wider institutional factors.

“Just as in the case of alternative livelihoods for illicit drugs, success is predicated on well-enforced property rights, the availability of microcredit, good infrastructure, and other structural factors. Crucially, it also depends on well-established value-added chains and assured markets, neither of which are developed easily in remote areas where forests or biodiversity-rich savannahs still exist”.

Law enforcement is not working either as enforcement agencies have “no interest or means to counter illegal wildlife trade”. Furthermore,  “…poachers and wildlife traffickers rarely face law enforcement action, frequently bribing their way out of punishment in Indonesia’s notoriously corrupt courts. If they are sent prison at all, it is usually for a few weeks at most”.

So both sustainable use and law enforcement strategies are not working in Indonesia. What prospects are there to save Indonesia’s animal biodiversity. The author argues that the key is reducing demand.

“Beefed up law enforcement action against wildlife trafficking and illegal fishing is critical. Providing effective alternative livelihoods for poor hunters is a policy that enhances human rights and human security as well as greatly facilitates law enforcement. Unfortunately, alternative livelihoods efforts are rarely effective, with auspicious circumstances mostly lacking and structural problems difficult to overcome. Ultimately, there are great limits to what even much more effective law enforcement and much more effective alternative livelihoods can accomplish unless demand for wildlife products around the world, and particularly in East Asia, is rapidly reduced. So far, demand reduction efforts in the region for bushmeat and Traditional Chinese Medicine have registered thinner, even if somewhat improving, results than demand reduction efforts to reduce the consumption of illicit drugs. But time is running out for Indonesia’s magnificent biodiversity –both on land and in the sea”.

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Can eco-tourism really help conservation in Madagascar?

How effective is eco-tourism for conservation? In a previous post, I highlighted the Action Plan for Lemurs in Madagascar which was confident that tourism could help conserve lemurs. For policy makers this seems like a magic bullet – an economic activity that does not degrade the environment (except its carbon emissions) whilst giving local people an economic stake in the conservation of an iconic species.

Ring tailed lemur in London Zoo (Photo: A.Kasterine)

Ring tailed lemur in London Zoo (Photo: A.Kasterine)

Writing an editorial in the journal Madagascar Conservation and Development, Ivan Scales offers a reality check, saying that ecotourism cannot compete against forest clearance for swidden agriculture. Scales cites Elinor Ostrum who said that socio-ecological problems are complex and context specific, defying ‘magic bullets’.

He says we need an “alternative paradigm”. It is not clear what this means, but he is very clear that in designing conservation policies, we have to be aware of the power of economic incentives. People do not want to live in poverty and will do whatever they have to to get out of it.

“In terms of benefits for individuals and households, these are largely insufficient to replace activities such as swidden cultivation. A study of the impact of tourism on communities living around Ranomafana National Park found that it directly employed just over 100 people (with less than half coming from the local population of 27,000), indirectly benefited fewer than 100 people, and led to infrastructural improvements in fewer than a dozen of the 160 villages surrounding the park (Peters 1998, 1999). The reality is that tourism (and conservation more generally) has created few employment opportunities, with those available tending to favour more educated individuals with the necessary language skills to deal with tourists (Durbin and Ratrimoarisaona 1996, Walsh 2005). In the Mikea Forest for example, economic benefits accrue to a minority of hotel owners and staff, most of whom come from outside the region (Seddon et al. 2000). Walsh (2005) reminds us that the majority of people living around protected areas in Madagascar do not have the skills or connections necessary to profit from conservation related activities. The challenge for conservation policy is clear. Unless it is able to create livelihood alternatives that at the very least match previous sources of income, consumptive uses such as swidden cultivation will continue, covertly and against the law if necessary”.

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