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Posts Tagged conservation

To Dunedin! On an ivory quest! Brendan Moyle Oct 22

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Well, not exactly.

 

But on Friday, I will be at Otago University and giving a seminar on ivory black markets.  One topic I’m going to highlight is whether the legal factories in China (all 37 of them) are a significant source of illegal carvings.

The production problem is usually glibly ignored or assumed away.  But essentially, if you do think that it is the demand for carvings in East Asia (and mostly China) that drives the poaching, there is a production challenge.  The 37 legal factories in China go through around 23-23 tusks per month (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Monthly Tusk Throughput in China

tusk throughput

If we accept that 25,000 elephants a year are being poached for ivory, and this is fed rapidly into the market for carvings, then that’s over 4000 tusks a month that has to be carved into carvings.  If we go for some of the bigger estimates- 35,000 elephants a year- that means over 5800 tusks a month.  A comparison with what the entire legal system in China is managing is sobering.   That’s an enormous gap that has not yet been accounted for.

I think once again, we have to take on board the hypothesis that most of the illegal ivory isn’t being exported to be churned out as carvings. It’s feeding a speculative market that is stockpiling raw ivory.  And the drivers of that are not Chinese affluence.  The drivers are the perceived scarcity of ivory combined with the uncertainty in its supply.

 

 

Lost at sea: Impressions of Leonardo’s Sailors Brendan Moyle Oct 13

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One day someone might write a useful review of the economics of wildlife trade.  Nadal and Aguayo’s “Leonardo’s Sailors” is simply not it.  The tragedy is that an opportunity has been squandered.  Economic models of wildlife trade and poaching have lagged behind policy issues.  They are simplistic. As yet they offer only limited guidance on the policy issues we grapple with. A good, critical review could have moved things forward.

Neither authors has any prior publications in this field.  Their methods are suspect.  They take a fraction of the literature on this issue.  The sample is from a subset of economists, many labelled as ‘pro-trade’ sic.  They select a narrow set of this research to critique.   You will not find my publications on butterflies, parrots, cockatoos [1], tigers, elephants or wildlife trade[2] in general in their list; just one paper on alligator farming.

Similarly you will not find any references to the work of Swanson, to Missios, to Ferrier, to Moran and many others.  You will not find case studies on the markhor, the vicuna, the caiman and other crocodilians or butterflies.

What you will find, is the same tactic creationists use to discredit evolutionary biologists.  This is the quote-mine.

Quote mining is the deceitful tactic of taking quotes out of context in order to make them seemingly agree with the quote miner’s viewpoint or to make the comments of an opponent seem more extreme or hold positions they don’t in order to make their positions easier to refute or demonize.[1] It’s a way of lying. This tactic is widely used among Young Earth Creationists in an attempt to discredit evolution.

(from Rational Wiki)

Blogs and the like are ‘mined’ to find quotes that can be used out of context, to discredit your opponent.  This has no place in science.

This is shameful. It is dishonest. It is contemptible.

Normally I would ignore this type of report.  It is not a peer-reviewed journal publication.  Nonetheless, there are three reasons I’m responding:

  1. It has had a negative impact on important debates around elephants and rhinos
  2. It misrepresents my research and position
  3. It makes false claims about my research

Because this is my blog I am going to indulge in a sampling of the points relevant to my work.  I don’t believe I am a unique target, but I am not interested in wasting my time on a full review of this report.

Let me illustrate with the report itself:

Moreover, legalising wildlife trade is being increasingly proposed as a general solution, applicable to many species (even to wildlife in general) with disregard to reproduction rates or ecological traits, or the specifics of different economic contexts.

No. Just no.

A regulated trade in wildlife is mooted as a potential solution to a narrow band of species threatened by poaching or by human-animal conflicts.  Rather than being a general solution, it seen as an option that could work in some cases.  For that reason it should be evaluated objectively.  See Moyle (2013).  I do not believe that any of the researchers targeted in this report have ever advocated trade as a general conservation solution.

This claim in Leonardo’s Sailors is a misrepresentation to set up a strawman opponent that is just easier to knock down.

On property rights:

This view of privatisation is shared by Moyle (2007) who affirms that “tigers need privatization too” as if this could guarantee their conservation.

This is a very good example of a quote-mine, and why you should not use them.  First, this is an outlier ‘solution’ sic and is not presented as a solution in my paper on the black-market in tiger parts in China, not presented as a solution in my paper on the black-market given at the SCB conference in 2011 [3] and not at the 2013 Kunming meeting on combating the illegal trade in tigers [4].

What makes it an outlier is that this is just the title of an IPA article- an Australian Free Market Institute. The IPA asked permission to use an article that Massey University had published on my research.   I didn’t pick the title.  Given the IPA’s stance the choice of title isn’t really surprising.  (The IPA also embellished the article with material I didn’t write.  There is a good reason why this article is an ‘outlier’).  And given the only farms discussed were Chinese tiger farms, ironically, this was not a case of privatisation.  I doubt the report’s authors read the article itself.  Especially as the article doesn’t say it would guarantee their survival.

You will not find any research of mine on the wildlife trade that advocates privatisation as the best conservation option.

Quote-mining is dishonest.

Products are treated as being homogeneous and this is why it is assumed that legal trade flows are able to fully substitute illegal ones.

Except Moyle (2013) points out that wildlife products are heterogeneous and that black markets may persist under these conditions-  cf “It cannot be assumed that these are products that are close substitutes“.  Also my paper on the tiger black market points out that not only is wildlife heterogeneous, in the case of tigers they are multi-product.

…The author concludes that the hypothesis that a legal supply can expand the market for illegal products cannot be sustained. But this study does not examine the illegal market at all. It is based on the implausible assumption that poachers behave like legal hunters (Moyle 2013:1664).

From my paper itself:

Assuming legal hunters and poachers are employing the same technology, then behaviour of poachers should mimic the actions of legal hunters. The response of legal hunters will thus resemble the responses of poachers. Deliberate mimicking occurred with alligators in the 1960s in the US (Thorbjarnarson and Wang 2010).

(My emphasis added)

It is an historic occurrence and if the report authors had familiarised themselves with the papers in my references, not unique to alligators. I do not think this assertion it is implausible holds.  Clearly the referees of my paper did not either.

Moreover, the author’s conclusions completely ignore the fact that neither hunters nor farmers actually make autonomous decisions on quantities, since “the number of alligators that can be taken is controlled by hunting tags issued by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries” and farmed output comes “from eggs that are collected under quantity permits” (Ibidem: 1665 and 1666).

Only if you’re determined to ignore two key points in the paper.

First, these quantity restrictions are ‘slack conditions’ and not binding because both sectors operate below this ‘safety ceiling’. And of course, the LWF tag-numbers can be manipulated upwards by investments in the habitat and nesting sites of alligators.

Second, the farms that have their own breeding stock are not bound by the LWF restrictions.  These are mentioned in the paper.  How odd the authors of Leonardo’s Sailors decided to omit this point.

The supply-side argument for trade in wildlife is based on the idea that legal supplies can, and necessarily will, out-compete illegal sources. In pro-trade models this goal is achieved through price reduction.

No. Moyle 2013 points out and cites earlier research on this exact same point- that non-price factors crowd out illegal trade.  This includes the security of supply, volume of product and quality of the product.

If, as evidence suggests, crime syndicates have access to scale and scope economies, they will actively resort to a strategy of expanding their markets.

Not something we are unaware of.

“(ivory) smugglers patiently developed alternative routes that were independent of the legal traffic. Instead of simply waiting and hoping for the ban in ivory to be lifted, new routes and new markets were developed” Moyle, 2003, p49-50.[2]

“However, as the black market becomes more established, organized and concentrated, the cost of supply drops.  At this stage, organized crime syndicates are more likely to initiate organized poaching” ‘t Sas-Rolfes, 2010, p485 [5]

Economies of scale are also identified in my latest paper on ivory smuggling.  These are issues that are being thought about. There is a fundamental problem evaluating other’s research when you restrict yourself to sampling from such a narrow range of papers.

A good example is Moyle (2011), who believes we should “ban the phrase trade fuels demand”

And the quote-mine makes another appearance. No, I don’t believe that. This is absurd.  I wrote it as a rhetorical device to provoke discussion in a blog- one of many I’ve written on the wildlife trade- to motivate discussion on what drives increases in poaching.  The context should have made it clear I was not literally advocating this.

An objective reading of Moyle (2013) and other papers shows I acknowledge that trade does have the potential to increase poaching (e.g. laundering effects, stigma effects).

The authors are competent and respected economists.  They should not be employing quote-mining to misrepresent people they disagree with.  This is not behaviour consistent with an objective economist.

The assumption that market demand functions are downward sloping is used in all of the studies on wildlife trade and trafficking (Damania and Bulte, 2007;Challender and MacMillan, 2013;Lockwood, 2011;Moyle,2013, ‘t Sas-Rolfes,2007).

And another false statement appears. Whilst it is true that papers that use Cournot or Bertrand assumptions assume a downward demand sloping function, I make no assumptions about the functional form in alligator farming.

I let the data do the talking. I don’t make any prior assumptions. Once prices were shown to be exogenous, ironically, I showed that the Cournot assumption did not hold.  Given the prices are exogenous, they could be determined randomly (say by sunspot activity) or have any feasible functional form.  It does not matter for my model- which was supply responses to these exogenous prices.  Remember- I was not modelling the demand for alligator skins but the supply from wild and farmed sources.

My results actually supported the argument in Leonardo’s Sailors!  Either my paper had not been properly read or their antipathy towards my imagined position prevents them from using my evidence.

This report appears to be a hasty, under-researched project with far too much effort devoted to discrediting ‘strawman’ opponents.  I’m not going to pretend it is of academic merit.

I should not have to be responding to claims I’m a free-market, privatising zealot.  My research on wildlife trade and black markets alone disproves that.

References

[1] Noske, Richard A.; Moyle, Brendan J. and Vardon, Michael J. Harvesting black cockatoos in the Northern Territory: catastrophe or conservation? [online]. Australian Biologist, Vol. 10, No. 1, Mar 1997: 84-93.

[2] Moyle, B. J. (2003). Regulation, conservation and incentives. In S. O. Ed (Ed.), The trade in wildlife: Regulation for conservation (pp. 41-51). London, UK: Earthscan Publications Ltd.

[3] Moyle, B. J. (2011, December 5). Analysing the Chinese black market in Tiger parts: A transaction cost economics approach. In 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology. Auckland, New Zealand.

[4] Moyle, B. J. (2013, July 29). Understanding and Combating Traffic in Big-Cat Parts: The Transaction Cost Economics Approach. In “International Workshop on Transboundary Conservation of Tigers and Other Endangered Species, and Strategy for Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade. Kunming, Yunnan.

[5] ‘t Sas-Rolfes, Michael (2010).  Tigers, Economics, and the Regulation of Trade. In Tilson, R. and Nyhus, P.J. Tigers of the World: The Science, Politics, and Conservation of Panthera tigris. (pp.477-490). Academic Press. London.

Excellent elephant conservation blog by Daniel Stiles Brendan Moyle Sep 16

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Long-time elephant conservationist Daniel Stiles has an excellent blog at National Geographic on elephant conservation and the ivory trade.  I think everybody who is concerned with conservation policy and elephants should read it.

On the 80′s poaching crisis-

Tragically, the rising calls for an ivory trade ban increased poaching because East Asian dealers and factories decided to stockpile for future use. The two fed each other in a positive feedback loop—increased poaching, increased calls for control, leading to more poaching to stockpile, ad infinitum until the ban

On the current situation

It was not only Chinese consumer interest in carved ivory that sparked the poaching crisis beginning in 2008-09. Investors, a.k.a. speculators, also became interested in raw ivory—tusks. After anti-trade NGOs succeeded in forcing a nine-year moratorium on proposals for future legal ivory sales from southern Africa at the CITES Conference of the Parties in 2007, unscrupulous ivory dealers saw that there was even more money to be made from poached tusks, because uncertainty of supply fuels speculation.

I’ve added my emphasis to the last statement.  When we create uncertainty about future supply, the bad guys respond by ramping up poaching to stockpile ivory.

On the solution- a regular, secure ivory supply from natural mortality etc

While no exact figure can be put at present on how much ivory would be available from stockpiles, natural mortality and PAC combined, I am confident that a minimum of 60 tons of legal ivory could be exported from Africa annually for at least ten years, without a single poached tusk needed. During this ten-year period, intense demand-reduction campaigns can be mounted so that renewable resource ivory from natural deaths and PAC can supply demand sustainably.

I recommend everyone read this piece.

Ivory Connections: Poaching and civil wars Brendan Moyle Aug 08

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As has been widely noted, elephant poaching in Africa has risen to very high levels- and once again is, threatening many populations of elephants.  The debate over the causes has not been entirely settled.  Some have advocated that this increase is a result of surging demand in East Asia (chiefly China).  As an explanation it doesn’t match a lot of what we have learned about this latest upsurge.

One credible cause of poaching is civil wars (and other collapses of civil order). Expenditures on parks and reserves takes a major hit, whilst desperate people seek food and livelihoods from these reserves.  And armed gangs try to cash in on what is there to fund more bullets and bombs to fuel the conflict.

The striking thing about the poaching upsurge is it is not uniform.  It is in fact, heavily concentrated in the Central African range states.  According to the IUCN elephant summit held in Botswana in December last year, it is running at around twice as high in the central African range states as the rest of Africa [1].  This is one of the clues we have, that the upsurge in poaching is a supply-driven event.

This can be shown a little more graphically.  How can we measure the ‘level’ of conflict in each of the range states?  Well, one way to do it is with refugees.  These are genuine refugees, rather than ‘economic’, and for humanitarian reasons, numbers are collected by the UN. If conflicts increase, then people tend to try to escape.  They become refugees.  And they do so with some alacrity.  It’s a pretty sensitive indicator.

So let’s look at the refugee numbers and the raw ivory intercepts.  Raw ivory becomes the indicator for poaching.  I’ve dropped the worked ivory out, because it is smuggled, raw ivory that is the chief export from range states.

refugees

The first thing that is really obvious is that refugee numbers in Central African range states completely dominate the rest of Africa. What can also bee seen, is that from the late 1990s to early 2000s, refugee numbers and poaching levels rose- then they seem stable up to around the 2008-09 period, and then they both take off again.

This tragically, describes a case of almost heavy cropping of elephants in this Central African region.  Which raises the next big question. What happens when these armed groups killing elephants run out in that region?  Will the poaching crisis burn out with the decimation of these elephants?  Or will they move to other regions of Africa.  We saw something very similar with Kenya.  It seems that if you want to limit losses to poachers, the first thing to do is ensure you do not have a common border with Somalia…cross-border poaching expeditions became common.

[1] UNEP, CITES, IUCN, TRAFFIC, 2013. Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis. A Rapid Response Assessment. United Nations Environment Programme, GRID-Arendal.

 

The Raw and the Carved: Tusk throughput in an Ivory Industry Brendan Moyle May 02

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One of the important areas to understand in the illegal ivory business, is just how long it takes to turn raw-ivory into carvings.  The crucial point alluded to before is that the rise in smuggling is generated by raw-ivory seizures.  Critics of the 2008 CITES decision to allow China and Japan to import raw-ivory argue this is being manifested in demand for carvings.  The rhetoric sometimes gets quite dense. Demand for ivory carvings is alleged to be insatiable etc.

To clarify a little, I don’t think anyone is arguing that over the long term, demand for ivory in China has not grown  This is linked to the growing affluence in the region.  The point of difference is whether demand exploded after the 2008 CITES decision.  I’m not seeing much evidence it has.

And again, we come back to the problem that while we see a lot of raw-ivory being poached and smuggled, we don’t see it appearing as carvings in domestic markets. The US plan to ban much of the domestic trade in ivory carvings is one of these odd responses to a problem nobody has actually seen.

So, not only have we been going around ivory carving factories and interviewing every carver they have on their output and the time it takes, we’ve been looking for other evidence as well.  One such line is the ivory-database the Chinese maintain for their legal ivory. The Chinese actually have a lot of data on this industry.  It is though, a challenge get access to this.  In this case, we have succeeded.

So what I have, is a list of every tusk that has been completely consumed in production in the Chinese ivory-carving industry.  I know where the tusk came from, its weight, its length, and when the factory recorded that the tusk was no more.  So it provides an estimate of the throughput of ivory.  It is restricted to the 2008 shipment, so all the tusks have the same starting point.  China also had a smaller reserve of ivory at the time of this shipment.

The numbers should still track the basic production throughput however.  They will just be lower than the actual quantity of carvings as some of these will come from tusks that are still being used up, and some from older reserves.

The first allocation of ivory to the 36-37 registered factories was in July 2009.  So as an introduction to the data, I’m just going to present the annual (aggregated) data.  (The pattern is a lot more interesting over the 1300 tusks)

Tusks

This tells us a few interesting things.  First, there’s significant lags being shown.  While the first of this ivory was being allocated in 2009, none of the tusks are reported as being all used up as carvings until May 2010. In the short run, demand and supply in this market can be out of synch.  Supply is always going to be playing catchup.

The first year, 2009, was also when many factories were hiring and training new staff.  The 2010 data is actually only 7 months long.  This is an indicator of the time its taken to get up to speed.

The third point is that we’re not seeing a rapid or insatiable growth in demand.  The factories are actually using up tusks slower than the total allocations (13.78 tons out of 18).  If demand had taken off in the way many are claiming, then we’d expect to see these numbers trending up to match.

Taking into account that the 2010 is only 7 months long, then the totals we see are actually pretty stable.  At the peak, the Chinese factories are going through about 400 tusks averaging a bit over 6kg each.  This is far less than some containers that have been intercepted with 4 tons or more of raw ivory.

This also gives some information on just how big the illegal carving industry has to be.  There’s a lot of raw-ivory to carve and then get this into the market for sale.  The illegal industry would have to be an order of magnitude greater than the legal.  There would have to be a lot of illegal factories.  And nobody has found those.

There are outlets selling illegal ivory.  But this is a bit deceptive.  Most of what is available for sale are small stocks of small carvings.  These are relatively common.  Researchers can find them.  Chinese enforcement agencies can find them.  The problem is that lots of small carvings of ivory still don’t add up to a lot.  We see this already with the global seizure data.  Most seizures are of small carvings smuggled in say, suitcases.  By weight, these add up to very small quantities- they are dwarfed by the volume of illegal ivory.  A similar situation occurs in China.  About 80% of the carvings made by the legal industry are generic pieces less than 50g in size.  This adds up to about 5% of the total weight of ivory used.  15,000 carvings of 50g or less, may sound like a lot of ivory.  But in overall terms, it isn’t.

It seems less credible the raw-ivory is being turned over into carvings than it is being stockpiled for later use.

 

 

 

Tiger time in the Sping Thaw Brendan Moyle Apr 24

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Well as part of the last expedition to China we got up north. Very north.  There was still snow on the ground even though it was early spring.  This is one of the times when having a good relationship with the Chinese SFA matters. Got to see a couple of Amur tigers which I was able to photograph.

 

They seem to be enjoying the thaw and the sunshine.

 

 

 

The Ivory Crush: When wishful thinking meets bad economics Brendan Moyle Mar 04

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Elephant poaching exploded in the late 2000s.  This has led to a range of measures to stop this traffic. Some are quite sensible- increased international cooperation and coordination on enforcement has had successes.  Both Operation Cobra (2013) and Operation Cobra II (2014) shattered some conspiracies in Africa and Asia.  Some measure, well, seem to be applied in haste and with little reason. The wave of ivory crushes initiated by the USA is one of these.

Countries have been acquiring ivory for years.  Some ivory is gathered from natural mortality and culls (in Africa).  Some ivory comes from seizures made by enforcement agencies.  A lot of this ivory is held in consumer-states.  Ivory is after all, a durable product.  It can be easily stored.

So, what’s the rationale behind destroying this ivory?  Advocates claim that it sends a signal that this time, the international community is serious. That by destroying legal stockpiles of ivory, consumers will realise that buying ivory products is bad. This is part of a long line of similar gambits. Kenya’s graphic burn of 12 tons of ivory in 1989 was supposed to do just this. The CITES Appendix Listing (1989) leading to the ban in international trade in ivory (1990) also was supposed to do this.

I suppose this could work if Asian consumers of ivory products wanted the approval of conservationists- especially Western conservationists- more than anything else. If on the other hand, centuries of cultural use is the more important driver then we’d see persistent demand over decades.  Yeah. I think that question has been answered.

The problem with the ivory-crush is perception.  With little forethought, it is just being presumed that buyers of ivory will perceive ivory to be less desirable.  The risk is that it bolsters the rarity-value of ivory.  That those in the market will think it becomes even more valuable. The important thing is not to change the perceptions of people who aren’t in the ivory market.  That’s a lot of China or Japan.  The important thing is the perceptions of the people actually in the market.

This is what we warned in our South China Morning Post op-ed.  If the buyers and sellers in this market come to regard ivory as more valuable, then it’s not going to slow down poaching. Prices will go up as a result of this perception. It will actually encourage more poaching.  We are creating a perception that there is a crisis with elephants, that ivory will become scarcer. Surprisingly, there are already early signs that this is occurring.

One seller at an ivory stall in Beijing’s Tianya Antique Market commented that “the government’s destruction of its ivory stocks has actually done us some good.” He explained that while smaller merchants were finding it harder to source quality goods, the larger ones still had suppliers and were benefiting from higher prices [link]

Initially, Hofford says, the move to destroy so much ivory appears to have driven up prices by about 10 percent in Hong Kong. [link]

Let me conclude with out SCMP Op-Ed

Conserving elephants is a laudable international goal. Destroying ivory stockpiles has no record of success and it has grave risks that are being overlooked in the rush to destroy. Effective policies must be based on compelling evidence and not on popular, wishful thinking.

I can understand the motivation to be seen to be ‘doing something‘ to reduce the illegal trade in ivory.  But this does not mean we should ditch the principles of good policy-making. It does not mean that we should be taking risky gambles.  The premise that making something scarcer will reduce its market value is extraordinary, and needs compelling evidence. None has been provided.

Time on the beach Brendan Moyle Jan 22

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One of the consequences of our fondness for beaches is pressure on native birds that live there.  Whilst sea gulls may seem very robust, other birds are less so.  One is the endangered NZ dotterel or tūturiwhatu.  There’s only about 1700 birds left of this species, and the North Island populations are only found in the upper north.  The nesting strategy for this bird is a simple scrape in the ground.  This means the nests are easily damaged or disturbed by well, almost anything.  This includes people, dogs, SUVs etc. 

Close to where I live is the Okura reserve and there is an isolated sweep of beach (near the old Dancre cottage) that has a small population.  Some days I’ve hiked out there with one of my sons and we’ve just sat, watching them through binoculars.  I have for sometime, been trying to get some good pictures of them as well.  Open beach is not easy to get close to birds with, and avoid startling or scaring them.

Last week I succeeded with a bit of planning and a bit of luck.  One the planning side, I dressed carefully in stone or khaki clothing to blend into the beach.  A stone-coloured brimmed hat finished the look, and I eschewed sunglasses.  There would be no dark areas on my body or outline.  There was also a large log washed up on the beach I could conceal myself behind by laying beside it.  I had about an hour there, able to watch and take pictures.  For the first time I ended up with a series that didn’t require cropping.  In fact, the birds seemed curious about the shutter sound and came closer than I expected.  Here’s a sample:

 

 

A rational look at rhinos, Namibia and sport-hunting Brendan Moyle Jan 17

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One of the points about conservation that seems to elude many, is that conservation isn’t about imposing your values on others.  It is about increasing the populations of endangered species.  This conflict came to head with the forthcoming auction of a hunting-permit for one black rhino in Namibia.

The idea of sport hunting is an anathema to many.  The outrage at the Dallas Safari Club auction of the permit on social media has been intense.  Nonetheless, the reality is that Africa is not a giant theme park for tourists.  It has wildlife and people coexisting.  Local communities have to bear the costs of wildlife interactions.  This includes damage to crops and property, injuries and sometimes deaths.  To maintain wildlife requires expenditures by governments to monitor and protect the wildlife.  A brutal consequence of this is lethal conflicts between poachers and rangers.

This is where sport-hunting plays a role.  It provides revenues and often local benefits that regular tourism does not.  Tourism requires a decent amount of infrastructure.  Professional hunters don’t.  They also go to places regular tourists don’t (tourists prefer animals in high densities to maximise viewing chances).  And they pay a lot of money.  Sport hunting occurs in Namibia because hunters put a lot of money conservation there, and outraged netizens don’t.  It occurs because it supports conservation.  Local communities get benefits from the wildlife.  They cooperate with enforcement agencies against poachers.

Namibia is one of the few countries in Africa to have an increasing number of rhinos.  It has a population of 1750 black rhinos.    Since 2004 Namibia has been allowed a hunting quota of 5 black rhino males per year by CITES.  This auction is just the sixth to have occurred.  It is of a post-reproductive male.  Population dynamics says that removing post-reproductive males isn’t a risk to the population.  People may not like it.  Nobody is asking that people like it.  The point is however, it is part of a successful strategy that has seen poaching curbed and rhino numbers increased.  That’s the goal of conservation.

The following text from the IUCN Sustainable use and Livelihoods Group is informative, and was submitted on this proposal.  It provides more detail on this issue.

—–

11th December 2013

 

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

 

RE: FORTHCOMING AUCTION OF A PERMIT TO HUNT A NAMIBIAN BLACK RHINO BY DALLAS SAFARI CLUB

 

This letter provides advice and input from IUCN’s Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi, www.iucn.org/suli) on the forthcoming auction by Dallas Safari Club (DSC) of a permit to hunt one black rhino in Namibia, as granted to them by the Government of Namibia. SULi is a cross-Commissional initiative of IUCN’s Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP) and its Species Survival Commission (SSC), and includes around 300 specialists and experts from across the globe on various aspects of sustainable use of wild species and its contributions to local livelihoods.

 

From a conservation perspective, we believe there are sound and compelling reasons to support this auction, and do not see any valid basis for opposing it. We note that:

 

  1. The auction is supported by the Government of Namibia, which has approved the permit to be auctioned by DSC. Namibia has an outstanding, globally recognised conservation track record. Over recent decades, wildlife numbers (including both black and white rhino) have been progressively increasing – not only in protected areas, but also on freehold and communal lands. This is near-unique in any developing country. The black rhino population now stands at around 1750[1]. Namibia has experienced very few poaching incidents despite the alarming escalation of poaching in neighbouring countries[2], and despite its large free-ranging population.

 

  1. The purpose of the auction of this permit in the USA (which Namibia would otherwise auction in-country) is to raise a larger amount of dedicated funding from the small number of black rhino it allows to be hunted each year as part of its rhino conservation strategy.

 

  1. Sustainable use, including through trophy hunting, is a fundamental pillar of Namibia’s conservation approach, and instrumental in its success. Through farsighted legislation, Namibia has empowered rural communities and private landholders to benefit directly from wildlife, thus building up an enormous support base for conservation amongst these groups. Sustainable use of wildlife contributes directly to the livelihoods of many rural communities, dramatically reducing levels of poaching and human-wildlife conflict[3], and dramatically expanding the area of land devoted to wildlife as a primary land use. As a result of its sustainable use approach, Namibia currently has 44% of its land area under some form of conservation[4], a remarkable and unrivalled achievement.

 

  1. Carefully managed hunting has proven to be an effective means of encouraging and enabling rural communities, private land holders, and indeed governments in a number of countries to protect and invest in wildlife. Photo-tourism is often proposed as an alternative to hunting and can be very effective in some contexts. However, unlike trophy hunting, tourism is capital intensive, requires considerable infrastructure, has higher environmental impacts, and is not viable in many landscapes (such as those distant from tourist routes, with still-low wildlife populations, lacking the required scenic qualities, or where there is political unrest). In Namibia, tourism and trophy hunting are complementary, typically taking place on the same areas of land, with trophy hunting frequently more important in the early stages of development of wildlife-based land uses.

 

  1. The current, well-justified international concern over the escalating and appalling level of wildlife crime can lead to some confusion with legitimate, well-managed sustainable use, including trophy hunting. Well-managed trophy hunting has little to do with poaching, and indeed can be a key tool to help combat it[5]. In Namibia, the benefits for rural communities from wildlife use have dramatically reduced levels of poaching over recent decades, and made communities powerful partners in detecting and combating wildlife crime. Trophy hunting provides not just incentive but revenue for anti-poaching efforts: without it, communal conservancies and landholders would not be able to employ the upwards of 3000 field rangers employed to protect wildlife and enforce regulations on wildlife use[6], or establish the sophisticated surveillance and informer networks in place. There is also a positive anti-poaching deterrent from having professional hunters traversing remote areas. These impacts have been borne out for rhino poaching in Namibia: it has an excellent track record of apprehending the perpetrators of the small number of rhino poaching incidents over recent years[7], directly as a result of support for and cooperation with enforcement agencies by local communities.

 

  1. The entire income from the auction of the permit will be paid into the the Namibian Game Products Trust Fund (GPTF). Maximising revenue to this fund will directly support practical and important rhino conservation work. This hunt will be the sixth hunt of a post-reproductive male black rhino in Namiba, and the funds generated from these earlier hunts were likewise paid into the GPTF and “ring-fenced” for rhino conservation work. The GPTF has a good record in supporting rhino conservation work, including funding
  • intensive rhino monitoring programmes;
  • purchase of specialized rhino management equipment (e.g. capture equipment);
  • operational funds for rhino rescue and relocation work;
  • purchase and deployment of radio/satellite tracking devices; and
  • purchase of drones for rhino protection.

The Namibian Government is also piloting a high-tech water-point surveillance system (due to the recent elephant poisoning developments in Zimbabwe) which is likely to rely on GPTF funding for roll-out. The GPTF is the one fund that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism can rapidly access to respond to rhino threats and management needs, so it is a critically important tool in Namibia’s arsenal to protect and manage its rhino.

 

  1. The hunt is consistent with commitments under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Namibia and South Africa applied for and received the support of CITES for an annual black rhino maximum hunting quota of 5 black rhino males/year each at CoP 13 in 2004, and the permit at issue here is within this quota. The CITES’ Conference of the Parties’ decision was based on widespread recognition that, while black rhino remain a Critically Endangered species, hunting a small number of males could be fully consistent with and indeed contribute positively to population growth of rhino, that numbers were increasing due to successful management in both countries, and that trophy hunting could play an important role in conservation efforts as explained above.

 

  1. Trophy hunting in Namibia is consistent with IUCN’s own policy, which has long recognised that the sustainable use of wildlife can be contribute to biodiversity conservation, because the social and economic benefits derived from use of species can provide incentives for people to conserve them and their habitats[8]. IUCN has also further recognised the conservation and rural livelihood benefits that can flow from well-managed recreational hunting[9] and trophy hunting in particular[10], including the part these have played in stimulating population increases for rhino[11]. We view Namibia’s program as an excellent example of these principles in action.

 

For these reasons, IUCN SULi is supportive of this auction by DSC, and sees it as an effective means to raise much-needed money for rhino conservation in a manner fully consistent with Namibia’s successful rhino conservation programme.

 

We recognise that it is not immediately intuitive that trophy hunting – even for endangered species – can be a positive conservation tool that can be used to fight poaching and acquire more habitat for wildlife. We further understand that the very idea of hunting is abhorrent to many people. However, in a world that requires pragmatic conservation solutions, trophy hunting – where well-managed – is frequently one of the most effective conservation tools available. Capitalising on the humane demise of a post reproductive animal in order to produce tangible benefits for the conservation of its species is a sound strategy worthy of strong support.

 

We hope and trust that DSC’s auction is successful in its purpose of raising substantial revenue to help protect and conserve rhinos in the field.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Dr Rosie Cooney


[1] IUCN (2013) CITES CoP 16 Inf. 51. Online at http://www.cites.org/eng/cop/16/inf/E-CoP16i-51.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] See e.g. Weaver LC, Hamunyela E, Diggle R, Matongo G and Pietersen T (2011). The catalytic role and contributions of sustainable wildlife use to the Namibia CBNRM Programme. In CITES and CBNRM: Proceedings of an international symposium on “The relevance of CBNRM to the conservation and sustainable use of CITES-listed species in exporting countries”. M. Abensperg-Traun, D. Roe and C. O’Criodain (Eds). Gland, Switzerland and London, UK, IUCN and IIED: 59-70. Online at http://pubs.iied.org/14616IIED.html

[4] NACSO. 2013. The state of community conservation in Namibia – a review of communal conservancies, community forests and other CBNRM initiatives (2012 Annual Report). NACSO, Windhoek. Online at http://www.nacso.org.na

[5] See examples in IUCN SSC (2012) Guiding Principles on Trophy Hunting as a Tool for Creating Conservation Incentives v1, Annex 1. Online at http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/iucn_ssc_guiding_principles_on_trophy_hunting_ver1_09aug2012.pdf

[6] This figure is calculated very conservatively as follows: Namibian communal conservancies have 573 full time and 96 part time conservancy employees, plus 862 conservancy representatives who receive allowances (NACSO 2013, see n4). While all of these people contribute to promoting conservation, of the full time Conservancy employees at least 460 are community game guards. There are over 1500 registered hunting farms in Namibia (freehold land), and it can be conservatively assumed that each farm employs 2 game guards. This supports a total of at least 3460.

[7] IUCN (2013) see above, n1.

[8] IUCN (2000) Policy on Sustainable Use of Wild Living Resources, WCC Res. 2.29. Online at http://www.iucn.org/about/union/commissions/sustainable_use_and_livelihoods_specialist_group/resources/res_supolstat/

[9] IUCN (2004) Application of the IUCN Sustainable Use Policy to sustainable consumptive use of wildlife and recreational hunting in southern Africa WCC Rec 3.093. Online at https://portals.iucn.org/library/efiles/edocs/WCC-3rd-005.pdf

[10] IUCN SSC (2000) supra n5.

[11] IUCN (2012) Conservation of rhinoceros species in Africa and Asia. WCC Rec. 138. Online at http://www.rhinos.org/Assets/wcc-2012-rec-138-en-conservation-of-rhinoceros-sp.pdf

 

The 25,000 elephant question Brendan Moyle Dec 08

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Poaching levels for African elephants have now accelerated to a point where about 25,000 are being killed a year.  The population in Africa is projected to decline by 20% in the next decade.  This is starting to get people very worried.

The illegal trade in elephants has several important features.  The first is that there is a separation between final consumers of carvings and poachers who procure the tusks.  There is a long supply chain with many parties along the route.  And importantly, many of these act strategically.  They’re thinking about the future, where demand is going and what effect enforcement is going to have.

The second feature is that ivory isn’t consumed in its raw form. It has to be transformed into something of value by carvings.  This process isn’t instant.  For an elaborate and large carving like a Guangzhou dragon-ball this can take months.  The number of skilled carvers is limited and the tools used to carve ivory aren’t sophisticated. There’s a limit to how much can be transformed into carvings.

ivory-carving-1

The third feature is that ivory is durable.  It can be stored for long periods without deteriorating. This may require some environmental safeguards.  In the dry air of Beijing for instance, humidity levels have to be increased.  But other than that, tusks can potentially last for years.  This is why many governments have stockpiles.  Another point is the bad guys have stockpiles too.

One way to look at the illegal trade is to break the seizures down into different categories.  Seizure data has been accumulated globally as part of the ETIS since 1996.  While the weight of seizures is often aggregated, this masks some important differences.  Some guy smuggling a small piece of raw ivory in his suitcase, isn’t the same as the criminal conspiracy shipping four tons of tusks in a container.

What I’ve done here is taken the ETIS seizure data for raw ivory (by weight) and divided it into four categories.  These are the seizures up to less than 10kg (Raw1), the seizures from 10kg but less than 100 (Raw2), the seizures from 100kg but less than 1000, and the seizures that are more than 1000kg.  This isn’t the total amount of ivory being illegal trafficked.  It is a sample based on seizures. I’ve also expressed the data as a two-year moving average to iron out a little volatility.

Raw Ivory Seizures

 

The data graphed above is also stacked so that the top line will measure the total ivory seized while the other lines break it down into proportions.  There were no big seizures in 2007-2008.

What can we see?

Well, the small seizures (less than 10kg) have been pretty stable. They haven’t moved.  The problem facing elephants isn’t the small stuff coming in as suitcases.  These make up the majority of the actual seizures by a negligible amount of the illegal ivory.  This also serves as a useful control. If the increase in recorded seizures was simply down to better reporting and better enforcement, this ought to have increased in line with the other categories.

The second point is really that the big seizures drive the trend. The increase in illegal ivory being trafficked is down to one category getting bigger.  This is the stuff that’s more than 1000kg. It’s the stuff that’s several tons in a shipping container from East or West Africa. We can see that’s taken off from around 2008.

This actually generates an important question. Why is it 25,000 elephants and not 10,000 elephants? The legal demand in China for ivory is about 4 tons per year.  The illegal demand is (we think) much higher. But 10,000 elephants gives (back of the envelope calculation) about 100 tons of raw ivory a year.  25,000 elephants gives 250 tons. It doesn’t seem plausible that this could be absorbed by the markets in China- nor that the legal and illegal factories could transform it into carvings fast enough.

This is a strong indicator that ivory is being hoarded at the moment.  This tells us the bad guys are banking on the US government and many other conservation organisations being wrong. They’re betting on ivory still being in demand in the future and at higher prices. This is kind of scary. I tend to the view that the guys involved in the illegal market have pretty good knowledge of the market. I don’t have the same confidence in the conservation organisations claiming demand is going to decline with stockpile destruction.  If the bad guys are right, destroying legal stockpiles just makes their hoards more valuable. It affirms the poaching spree was the right strategy for them.

 

 

 

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