Elephant

2015-07-09

International trade regulations regarding conservation of endangered species

Professor Nobuo Ishii (Tokyo Woman's Christian University)

CITES sets the export quotas of CITES-listed species to the Parties at level enough for the species to sustain healthy ecosystem.  CITES is excellent in terms of ecological point of views because it is based on a belief the Parties should consider maintaining adequate number of the species when exporting, in order to avoid the species to be listed in Appendix I. It focuses on prevention of extinction while taking ecological roles of the species in ecosystem into account.

At the times of the establishment of CITES, people concerned many species would be on the verge of extinction if unsustainable wildlife trades continued.  Thus, they believed regulations and ban on international wildlife trades were inevitable approaches for species conservation. 

Although protective effect is thought to be much stronger for the CITES-listed species than non-listed ones, the actual implementation is not as simple as it looks.

According to IUCN reports, up to 80% or 90% of all the significant threat to endangered species is habitats loss.  In contrast, the influence of wildlife trade related to CITES is lesser.

Trade ban on Appendix I specimens may induce adverse effects.  This does not necessarily apply to all, but is indeed true in quite a lot of cases.

Trade ban takes away income sources to the communities which rely heavily on wildlife trades thus the CITES regulation implementation can severely deteriorate legal economical activities.

Profitable wildlife is often abundant in unwealthy, developing countries.  Prohibition of trades is a fetter to those governments to allocate national budgets for species and habitat conservation, and can lead to conservation cost reduction.  If government incentives were reduced, in response to CITES ban, local community people living with profitable wildlife would no longer afford protecting species, the assets.  Thus, establishment of cashback systems to bring profit to local people is inevitable.

The population of the species we try to protect eventually diminishes, and the local peoples soon lose their interest in conservation of the species and their habitats.  Then they would seek other ways to make livings, by development and selling forest trees.  Such trends are already observed around sharks and African elephant.

The merit of Appendix II is it allows some exceptions while regulating trade.  It produces profits which can be used for wildlife protection as well as development of local economy.  If local people understand wildlife is important assets for their economy, they become eager to protect and manage them.  In addition, it would make easier for the governments to allot budgets to such conservation projects, even more enhancing the local people’s ambitions for protecting the wildlife as own assets or improvement of their lives. 

For example, vicugna (Vicugna vicugna), a South American camelid, was once targeted for poaching because of its wool, which traded expensive as raw material of wool fabric.  The population kept declining and in 1860’s, the loss reached the peak of 5,000 individuals, and, as a result, the species was listed on Red List.  To improve the situation, local people captured it alive instead of killing it, to shave like sheep-shearing and released back to wild.

After South American governments have allowed trade and introduced system of returning profits to communities, the population of vicugna increased to 350,000, according to 2008 estimates, and the species were un-listed from the Red List.  The regulation status of vicugna trades in Ecuador changed from total ban to exemption when the proposal was adopted at 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties.   

Furthermore, Mexico proposed down-listing of the Morelet's crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) so that the future trades of the species would be possible, and the proposal was adopted. Similar proposal was submitted by Guatemala, which was deferred at the moment because of the smaller population size.

At 8th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Kyoto, 1992), “Recognition of the Benefits of Trade in Wildlife” was adopted.  At the Conference of Parties, the professionals committed to CITES, recognized that restricted commercial wildlife trades which are kept in levels that will not lead to extinction of species, but instead beneficial for conservation of species and ecosystems, or development of the local community. 

CITES was established as a means of universal wildlife protection by limiting wildlife trade because many people thought “any kinds of international wildlife trade were bad no matter what”.  However, as indigenous cultural practices, beliefs, and economic situations of local communities are widely recognized, the treaty has geared its focus to more flexible, community-based conservation, and creates (amends) rules to control of international wildlife trades in sustainable way, allocating profits gained from the trades to regional wildlife conservation activities.  Thus, in terms of wildlife conservation, some people argue it would be more effective Appendix II (allowed limited trade) than Appendix I (generally trade was prohibited).

At 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, Zambia proposed for transfer of African elephant from Appendix I to Appendix II because they were able to control the elephant poaching within limited budgets.  Although they claimed products under the influence were live elephants and raw/processed skins, no ivories included, the proposal was rejected.  This was the typical case of misjudgment by Conference of the Parties. 

At 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, when the United States proposed to up-list polar bears from Appendix II to Appendix I to ban trade, many Parties went against it because the declining of polar bear population was blamed on global warming and not the international trade.  The proposal was rejected after all.  We are deeply concerned with such unreasonable claims the United States makes. 

When judging whether commercial international wildlife trade is good or bad, we need to be more permissive to approve ones that don’t affect population sizes.  At the same time, we also need to carefully observe any unfavorable results the wildlife trade induces to sustainability of species. We have to allow trade if it is within the allowable range, while we have to combat illegal activities.

Not all commercial trades are bad.  What kind of impacts they pose to conservation is what we should consider.

The parties who went against the Zambian proposal must have thought the decision would lead to the perfect protection of the elephant, but we are afraid they were not looking at the whole picture.  It is very unlikely trade ban would be an absolute solution to the problem.  Local community people who live around elephants would not understand why trade is banned. 

CITES needs to focus more on how operative and effective the regulations are on the field.  It is not too difficult to encounter cases where universal trade bans don’t work as means of species protection; rhinos, tigers, and African elephants, etc.

Trade ban should never be imposed when possibility of the extinction is low with scientific evidences.

We should try to create and provide optimum environments so that species can independently sustain their own population to function in ecosystems.  Unfortunately, it is doubtful we are doing them well.

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Handling of ivory in Japan: from the import to the sale

Tsuyoshi Tsurumi (Executive Director of Tokyo Ivory Arts and Crafts Association)

Shosoin treasures, almost of which were collected during Nara period (710 to 794 AD), indicate ivory products were already existed in Japan at the time.

The 7th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Lausanne, Switzerland, 1989) adopted the proposal to include African Elephant in CITES Appendix I -previously Appendix II - which lead to the ban of ivory trade.   However, several countries in Southern African region were against the decision, and submitted proposals to include African Elephant in CITES Appendix II at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Harare, Zimbabwe, 1997).  As a result, African Elephant was listed CITES Appendix II in Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana, and approximately 50 tons of ivory were exported to Japan in spring of 1999.  In the next following year, African elephant in Republic of South Africa, too, was include in CITES Appendix II with some reservation during 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Gigiri, Kenya, 2000).  Japan and China were chosen as partner countries of the monitored trade, and approximately 40 tons of ivory was imported in spring of 2009.

Numbers of ivory products are being kept in storehouses in Kruger National Park in South Africa.  They are derived either from dead elephants (due to natural death or vermin control), seized from poachers, and unknown sources, and sorted and secured strictly.  The illegal and unknown source ivory products are doomed never to be on market.

Trades are under the supervision of the CITES Secretariat.  All imported ivory goods are first to be carefully checked if packages are tightly sealed or contain any errors with CITES Secretariat, then traders finally receive them after the thorough inspections.

Three obligations imposed on wildlife traders in Japan who deal with CITES-listed species are:
1)Submission of the notifications.  Required for international commercial trades.
2)Entry and retain of trade transaction record account book.  Traders must report them annually and keep them for five years.
3)Agreement on On-the-Spot Inspection by Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Economy.

Traders first have to register ivory products to Japan Wildlife Research Center and receive certificates.  Then they are allowed to start trading ivory products.

If cut or modify ivory goods, traders must return the certificates to Japan Wildlife Research Center within 30 days. Then prepare management charts on their own to provide necessary information such as acquisition routes, and attach them to the goods to prove they are legally imported.

Management system of ivory trade is well established in Japan.  Application of business permits, preparation and management of trade transaction records, registration of product materials, preparation of management charts, and applying for certificates to display the products are legally approved, and list goes on.  Japan was accepted in regards of such decent systems on ivory trade.   

Problems for the primary source countries;
1)Lack of Effective measures to prevent (minimize) conflict between humans and elephants.
2)Shortage of human resources.  Too few personnel to cover vast areas.
3)Shortage of fund.  Too little money to hire additional personnel to improve present conditions.  More money is needed to combat poachers and to purchase necessary equipment for conservation and management.

Conservation activities and various sustainable activities of the primary source countries require indigenous resource management systems.   Furthermore, appropriate measures have to be taken for local people to “want” to protect wildlife.

Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources) program entrusts local communities with wildlife managements.   The locals have freedom of making their own decisions about the use of wildlife resources and benefit from it.

In Namibia, wildlife has traditionally been managed by land owners from the past.  Likewise, NGOs have introduced talented and skilled personnel to communities for sustainable wildlife managements so that locals can make enough for living.  The revenue goes to the communities, rather than the individuals.  Also importantly, female participation is one of the notable characteristic of the program.

In other countries, there are some examples of elephant conservation with local communities, creating guidelines, and employing local people for the project.

Ownership of wildlife basically belongs to the nation.  However, the department of wildlife allots catch quota to the local communities, and the communities raise money by selling the catch quota to hunting industries.   Such profit reduction system eventually change the way people look at elephant, from vermin to assets.

Transboundary conservation efforts are inevitable because elephants migrate freely regardless of country borders.   It is essential that Organizing wildlife management systems beyond national boundaries, cooperation with large-scaled, internationally organizations to combat illegal hunting and trades,  collaboration and cooperation in working among the law enforcement agencies of the respective countries, which involve primary source countries, transit countries and destination countries. Additionally, local people’s raising Awareness and encouraging people by national governments of combating illegal trades; these are the common recognition in the primary source countries.

Ivory managements cost a lot.  Therefore, the primary source countries argue it is rather beneficial to sell out obtained ivories (from elephants that naturally died or killed as a result of vermin control) and allocate the profits to elephant conservation and management.  Our organization supports this idea.

Primary source countries collect ivories from naturally died elephants and properly manage them, and report the fact to the CITES Secretariat.  When these ivories are legally traded with CITES certified partners, the primary source countries receive the profits and use them for elephant conservation and management.  Wildlife conservation activities could be funded from wildlife resources if such rotation cycle are established and functioned.

Our approaches to conservation since 1985 are very sincere.  For example, we have contributed funds to the ivory-related programs of CITES (including 1997 established MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants)), educated union members, conducted researches in the primary source countries, and attended CITES CoP to gain information and distributed it. 

For over a century, our organization has held annual “zou-kuyou”, memorial services, and never forgets the sense of appreciation for elephants.

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