WWF Wildlife Crime Scorecard Report Released
Conservation charity organization WWF released its report Wildlife Crime Scorecard to coincide with the 62nd CITES meeting in Geneva, Switzerland this week. Around 175 countries met between July 23-27, 2012 to discuss wildlife trade issues. The United Nation’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an essential global treaty that almost universally prohibits international commercial trade of the three wildlife species highlighted in the report: tigers, elephants, and rhinos.
The report implicates 23 Asian and African countries where high levels of ivory, rhino horn, and tiger parts trafficking are reported. These were classified as origin, transit, or destination countries. China, Egypt, Thailand and Vietnam were primary destination countries. Many countries in Central Africa were classified as primary origin countries due to heavy losses in elephant populations. India, Indonesia, Russia, and South Africa were also classified as origin countries. In some cases a country can be described as both transit and origin, meaning it is a source of wildlife trade products as well as a transit point (for illegal wildlife trade) from another origin country to a destination country. Examples of transit and origin nations were Kenya, Laos, Malaysia, and Mozambique.
The nations were given green, yellow, or red scores for each of the three wildlife species according to progress made in countering illegal wildlife trade. A green score indicates strong compliance and enforcement efforts, a yellow score is a warning that important aspects of either compliance or enforcement are inadequate, and a red score means little progress in both has been achieved. Though all countries face the same challenge in their territories, the report aims to show which nations are actively making efforts for progress from those which are not. See WWF’s infographic of the report.
Vietnam was at the bottom of the wildlife crime scorecard, garnering two red scores for tigers and rhinos and a yellow mark for elephants. Vietnam is the top destination country for rhino horn where demand was previously fuelled by the belief that it cures cancer. At present, demand for rhino horn is driven by its status as a luxury item, particularly as a prized ingredient in ‘the alcoholic drink of millionaires’ popular among the wealthy in the country. WWF also reports that Vietnam allowed the establishment of a captive breeding program for tigers in 2007 and this appears to be a source supplying a fairly large part of the illegal trade. A recent proposal to use dead tigers from the facilities for specimens and traditional medicines is being criticized and opposed as it will undermine enforcement efforts in the nation.
Laos also received two red marks for tigers and elephants and a yellow score for rhinos. WWF reports that Laos exhibited strong political will in the area of tiger conservation but needs to improve prevention controls. A large tiger breeding farm was discovered in Thakhek, Laos in 2010 where tiger carcasses were sent to Vietnam to make tiger bone medicine. Several companies in both Laos and Vietnam also imported lion bone and captive lions from South Africa in 2009. Both Laos and Vietnam are encouraged to improve enforcement efforts on illegal wildlife trades.
Mozambique also received two red scores for rhinos and elephants (no score for tigers due to insufficient data). WWF reports that Mozambique nationals were involved in rhino poaching in South Africa, and that the country has illegal internal ivory markets. More than 1,000 kilos of ivory were stolen from the Mozambique government stockpile in February this year. Just last month more than 3,000 kilos of ivory were also stolen from the stockpile of the government of Zambia.
China has received a yellow mark for elephants and green marks for both tigers and rhinos. China along with Thailand is primarily a destination country, especially for illegal ivory. The report cites analysis that reveals more than 16 tonnes of ivory were represented in 134 seizure cases involving Chinese nationals within or coming from Africa since 1989. A separate 487 cases of illegal ivory seizure from Africa en route to China represented another 25 tonnes of illegal ivory. Though China is making efforts to deal with illegal ivory trade, WWF gave it a yellow mark for failing to track sales of legal ivory imports and police its legal ivory trade system.
Thailand is described as ‘unique’ in that it permits legal ivory trades from domesticated Asian elephants, which serves as a loophole for smuggled ivory from Africa.
Central African countries are experiencing localized extinctions of elephant populations from heavy poaching and trafficking. WWF reports that illegal killing of elephants is at its highest levels on record, fuelled by demand from destination countries. Inside one of Cameroon’s national parks hundreds of elephants were killed by armed foreign poachers this year, the report states. Efforts like Cameroon’s sentencing of ivory poachers up to 30 months in prison (one of the heaviest penalties in the country) show initiative and effort, but progress on actual enforcement is lacking. In addition, the flow of heavy weaponry in the region meant for poaching are feared to stimulate local conflicts in the area.
South Africa also suffers from extensive rhino poaching and was given a yellow mark for failure in enforcement. An alarming 448 rhinos were poached in the area in 2011, causing a crisis. In the first six months of 2012 alone an additional 262 rhinos were killed. WWF reports that poachers in the region are intensively organized and are capable of using helicopters, veterinary tranquilizers and night vision scopes to hunt rhinos. Most of rhino horns poached from the country are destined for Viet Nam.
Meanwhile the Wildlife Crime Scorecard’s best performers are India and Nepal, both receiving green marks for all three wildlife species. This is despite both nations’ being origin countries. Stronger wildlife controls, stiffer penalties, and more strict legislation contributed to advances in compliance and enforcement in both nations. It is significant that Nepal achieved a zero-rhino-poaching year in 2011. WWF recommends that effective coordination mechanisms established in China, India, and Nepal be used as a model for other countries. Law enforcement, commerce, wildlife authorities and other agencies should be well coordinated in tackling illegal wildlife trade issues.
It is hoped that the WWF Wildlife Crime Scorecard report will be used in this year’s CITES meeting in planning launch a global campaign against illegal wildlife trade.
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