Proposals for 11th Conference to CITES: briefing


14 March 2000
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Meeting report

14 March 2000

Morning session on Proposals to CITES

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) -- Presentation
TRAFFIC Network Briefing Document
Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism - Briefing Document

The 11th Conference of the Parties (CoP11) to CITES will be held in Nairobi from 10-20 April. South Africa has tabled a proposal to transfer its elephant
population from Appendix I of the Convention (no trade) to Appendix II (limited and conditional trade). More specifically, South Africa is asking the Convention to allow a one-time experimental sale of stockpiled ivory to Japan. The ivory has been accumulated by legal means in a controlled environment in the Kruger National Park, and South Africa would like to reinvest the revenues from the sale into further conservation efforts, as part of its vision of sustainable development. If approved, the proposal would allow trade in raw ivory up to 30 tons, as well as trade in live animals, hide and leather goods, and non-commercial trade in sport trophies. There is a precedent for such experimental sales as similar proposals from Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe were approved at CoP10.

The Committee invited briefings from a number of perspectives on this proposal. At this meeting, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was the main presenter. TRAFFIC, the World Wildlife Fund South Africa (WWF-SA), South African National Parks (SANP) and Endangered Species Protection Unit (ESPU) gave 10-minute responses and will have an opportunity for a lengthier presentation at a later date.

IFAW is urging South Africa to withdraw its proposal on elephants. IFAW
believes that the results from the experimental trades granted to Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe at CoP10 have not yet been determined. It was agreed at CoP10 that monitoring systems be set in place in order to track the influence of these sales on poaching in all countries with elephant populations. However, these systems have not yet been adequately deployed. Since IFAW believes that any trade in ivory -- whether legal or illegal -- may stimulate a market for this product, they do not support further trade at this time. As an alternative, IFAW sees long-term tourism initiatives as being more profitable.

IFAW also recommends that South Africa reject proposals by Japan and Norway to transfer Minke and Grey Whales from Appendix I to Appendix II, and reject a
proposal by Cuba to transfer Hawksbill Turtles from Appendix I to II. It urges support for a proposal from Great Britain to include the Basking Shark on Appendix II, and for a proposal by Australia and the USA to include the Great White Shark on Appendix I.

In the discussion following the presentation, committee members pointed out
that elephants are killed for reasons other than the ivory trade, for example the destruction of property or the need for meat. A ban on ivory trade, therefore, is not a solution to the problem. Instead, there needs to be a broader approach that takes a multiplicity of factors into account, including the interaction between elephant and human populations. On the other hand, South Africa has been recognized for its excellent monitoring resources and its capacity to control poaching. The members felt that this effort should be rewarded and indeed, that the benefits of a controlled trade could be a model and incentive for other states to develop similar systems.

Brief responses:
TRAFFIC agreed that the monitoring systems, MIKE (Monitoring Illegal Killing
Of Elephants) and ETIS (Elephant Trade Information System), have not yet been fully developed. They therefore recommend that the downlisting of elephants to Appendix II be accepted, but with a zero quota for ivory. TRAFFIC pointed out, however, that even once fully operational, these systems will not be able to provide perfect data or establish a causal relationship between trade in ivory and poaching. This is because there are too many variables involved, include political unrest and hunger, and also because much of the information is anecdotal. The systems will represent possible trends and aims to assist parties in making decisions.

Dr. Hall Martin (SANP) emphasized that the purpose of CITES is to prevent the extinction of species, and that the only question, therefore, was whether South Africa's one-off sale to Japan would affect other countries. The stockpile in question is of limited quantity, and its origin can be tested for to exclude other traders. There is also no evidence that Japan has permitted the resale of ivory outside of that country in the past. The anticipated revenues of R25 million would be used for a new management plan for elephant conservation, and to implement MIKE.

The new management plan envisions transferring elephants to the
trans-boundary park that is being developed between South Africa and Mozambique. This position refutes the article published in the Mail and Guardian that reported a plan for large-scale culling.

WWF-SA takes the position that South Africa should be given an incentive to
continue its efforts in conservation. The organisation believes that the focus should be on pressuring those states with inadequate natural resource management, not on continuing to test those who have complied. It is futile to wait for the perfect monitoring system.

ESPU supports the sale of stockpiled ivory, since maintaining store-rooms is
costly and produces its own security problems. South Africa can assist other African countries with its protection systems.

Committee Chair Mahlangu asked ESPU to comment on the report that was leaked to the Mail and Guardian, criticising South Africa's capacity to
police the illegal trade in animals and linking this concern to the proposal on ivory.

The ESPU representative responded that the problems documented in the report did not concern ivory. Rather the unit does not have enough capacity to enforce CITES with respect to other species, eg. birds and reptiles. The permit system is problematic and ESPU is working with the Department on Environment and Tourism to develop an auditing system.

The Committee expressed concern over these enforcement problems, and Ms. Mahlangu proposed that a closed meeting be held the first week after the
recess in order to discuss them.

Afternoon session on the Tourism Amendment Bill

A document containing proposed amendments to the Tourism Amendment Bill was distributed to members. The whole discussion was focused on the training of tourist guides and the requirement that they prove their competence in terms of the South African Qualifications Authority Act. It was felt that many elderly people who had invaluable knowledge about the indigenous customs, cultural traditions and were intimately connected with the finer details of various issues relevant and interesting for tourists could hardly be evaluated by some academic who wanted to test such person's competence. On the other hand it was agreed that some type of validation of a tour guide's competence was needed to ensure the maintenance of a certain standard and to prevent opportunists who knew nothing about being guides from jumping on the band wagon. Thus while it was hoped that the strict requirements in terms of the Bill would be reduced to accommodate for a transitional arrangement which would allow people currently making a living as a tour guide to conduct for example tourist visits to rural areas, it was also felt that international tour guide standards had to be set, while making provision for transitional arrangements.

It was feared that the whole purpose of the bill, which was to facilitate the empowerment of previously disadvantaged persons in terms of becoming tour guides, would be defeated by the proposed Tourism Learnership Project (TLP). Whilst the project was explained as one which would provide funding and training for such persons, they would not be able to immediately begin employment but would have to first complete the TLP, which was generally felt not to be a satisfactory situation.

The deliberations on the Bill would continue after the recess.


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