Archive November 2012

How to write a news report on Wildlife Poaching Brendan Moyle Nov 07

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After reading many of these over the years, I believe I have discerned the formula for writing the successful news report on wildlife poaching. This is all that it takes:

1) Always support the trade-ban. Trade bans are always the right thing to do. They are a brilliant conservation strategy that creates much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the actual black-markets. Removing legal competition, inflating prices and creating a niche for organised crime always discourages poaching. Because everyone knows that bloating the profits of crime syndicates through a ban, is the last thing these guys want. Rhinos have been subject to an international trade-ban since 1977. Don't question its effectiveness. Making criminals rich has got to deter poaching eventually.

2) Tantalise and shock the reader. Everyone needs to be told that wildlife is poached for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). And TCM is only ever used for one thing of course- aphrodisiacs. Readers love being told this stuff. On no account should you actually tell the readers that wildlife is poached for a myriad of reasons and it is almost always, has nothing to do with aphrodisiacs.

3) Call for more law enforcement. Obviously nobody has since say, 1977 for rhinos, ever thought of this before. The shoot-to-kill policy adopted towards some poachers in African states is just us being soft towards poaching. What we need to do is 'more'. Whatever that means.

4) Call for more education. Anti-consumption 'education' campaigns have been running in many Asian countries since the 1990s. We're not entirely sure where the consumers are or what their motives are, so broach-brush approaches are being used. Because nothing kills off demand faster than the constant reminder to people that the wildlife products have medicinal properties in their culture.

5) Make proposals to reduce value of the wildlife. For example, dehorning rhinos was started in the late 1980s as a way to discourage poachers. With barely any horn left, poachers would have little desire to hunt the rhinos. We've been waiting for this to work for two decades of course.

6) Mock anyone who expresses doubt. The trade-ban is the corner-stone of a brilliant conservation strategy. The collapse of rhino numbers due to poaching, the extinction of the Western Black subspecies, the loss of all wild rhinos in Vietnam- are all utterly minor setbacks. Anyone who wonders if we should be considering legal trade isn't a "true" conservationist. They're in the pay of the Chinese or the hunting fraternity or something. The trade-ban is brilliant so there's nothing to debate. We just need to spend more money on doing what's been failing for over 30 years.

(Sorry, I'm in a slightly dark mood)

Mapping tiger smuggling Brendan Moyle Nov 05

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One of the first problems I ran into with researching tiger smuggling was the bias. A lot of the studies had been done by organisations based in India. Imaginative and creative arrows were being drawn across India, Nepal, into Tibet and over into the eastern provinces of China. The two big gaps were interdiction rates inside China, and the case of the Indo-Chinese tiger.

At the last SCB meeting I gave a paper on the breakdown of interdictions inside China. This data was obtained after some patient relationship building within China. The basic breakdown is as follows:

Figure 1: Smuggling Map 1999-2010

Province in coloured as deep-red are hotspots. These are provinces that have had multiple cases of smugglers being intercepted. The obvious characteristic is each is a province that borders range states with wild tiger populations.

Provinces in pale-red are low-interdiction cases. These are province that have had one arrest only.

The map also is instructive as it gives some idea of the scope of the international borders smugglers can take advantage of. It should come as no surprise that parts also show geographical trends also. Amur tigers are intercepted in the north (Heilong-Jiang/Jilin), Indo-Chinese & Bengali in the south (Yunnan), and Bengali in the west (Tibet).