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London Conference:  Stopping Illegal Wildlife Trade

Feature by Eco-Campaigner Aurelia Anyika

London today hosted world leaders for the biggest ever conference on illegal wildlife trade. The United Kingdom’s foreign secretary Mr William Hague, hosted the conference at Lancaster House, that was attended by the Prince of Wales, as well as the African presidents of Tanzania, Chad, Gabon and Botswana. The meeting was held to try to find solutions to the illegal trafficking of wildlife products. Action for Elephants UK along with other groups of protestors gathered outside Lancaster house, while the conference took place. We gathered there to speak out against the merciless, unsustainable, purposeless killing of animals, with species such as elephants now facing extinction in as little as 5 years. We gathered there united, to show the world leaders, that we need less talk & greed and more action and compassion, as our wildlife is quickly fading away.

One-Off sales of Ivory Stock correlates with increase in Poaching

International wildlife charities and scientist are estimating that 100 elephants are killed in Africa daily with data suggesting at least one every 15 minutes. In 1980, Africa had 1, 000, 000 elephants in the wild, but now a recent census indicates less than 300, 000 remain.  CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)   has in the past authorised the one off sale of ivory stock piles from countries in Southern Africa, allegedly causing spikes in poaching over the years. In 1997 CITES approved the sale of 50tons of ivory which followed a poaching spike in 1998. In 2002 CITES approved a 60ton ivory sale which was followed by another poaching spike. Once again in 2008, CITES approved 108 tons of Ivory to Japan from Southern Africa which has been followed by the sharpest rise in poaching seen. CITES authorised the sale despite objection from many other countries in East, West and Central Africa. Scientists have shown a clear correlation between CITES approval of one off sales and spikes in poaching. Poaching is now estimated to generate over 10 billion for criminal syndicates, including international drug cartels and terrorist groups. 1000 rangers have been killed so far by poachers in Africa, while protecting these precious animals.

African Safari & Local reality:

For many in Africa, visiting game reserves and national parks, where the animals live is much too expensive. Families are faced with dilemmas of whether to buy food, pay school fees or pay rent. Luxuries such as going on a safari holiday are unthinkable. Many have never seen these animals that are apparently facing extinction. They have been denied the chance to form a connection with their natural landscape. A freelance tour guide in Kenya says that at the gates of the game reserves, children from local villages ask tourists leaving about the animals that they saw and what they look like. It is their wish to one day be able to afford the fares to go into the game reserves. When the question of why the African community may sometimes appear disengaged with wildlife conservation efforts, we have to remember that we are asking them to be passionate about a species that they never saw, as they may never see it. This is of cause not all of the African community. There is a growing middle class and established elite community of African who frequently visit these game reserves. There is also the community of Africans who share the same space with wildlife and has sometime led to human-wildlife conflict. Elephants sometime graze on farmer’s crops leading to conflicting relationships with wildlife. Poachers have great knowledge of elephant herds and know that if you kill the matriarch, the rest of the herd will descend into total chaos. This makes it easier for them to kill the rest of the group.  Poachers are reported to come mainly from the poorer communities that share a space with the animals. Because of lack of opportunities and basic needs, they find themselves in this merciless trade.

Chinese Culprits

China is the worlds’ biggest consumer of ivory with a insatiable growing demand. The blood ivory is turned into trinkets, ornaments and medicines. Although many Chinese people are growing aware of the destruction of the trade, many more are still willing to maintain their heritage, while sacrificing Africans’.

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