Cites Outcomes: briefing


18 March 1998
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Meeting report

18 March 1998: Part 1


Briefing by the Environmental Affairs and Tourism Department on the CITES meeting at Harare last year.
South African position on African Elephant trade and Ivory Stocks.
Briefing by the Endangered Species Protection Unit on the present situation of illegal trade in South Africa.

The chairperson started the meeting by enquiring from the Department what was the substance of the CITES meeting in Harare last year, and what work has been done by the Department since then. The chairperson reminded the MPs that there is a summary of the Committee’s position last year and the need for coherence with that position.

Dr Botha, for the Department, made a summary of the CITES meeting in Harare on June 1997:
meeting was heralded as a turning point for acknowledging the principle of sustainable utilisation of natural resources, swinging from a previous traditional conservationist approach.
Several important proposals were discussed: Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia proposed the transfer of the African Elephant from Appendix I to Appendix II; Japan and Norway proposed the same transfer for some whale species; Cuba proposed the same for some turtle species; other members proposed moving tropical mahogany forests into Appendix II.
About the African Elephant proposal, the objective is to allow limited trade of ivory to Japan. The details of the transfer were made available to the MPs in an accompanying document. These details include:
Trade will not be resumed unless control mechanisms and conditions are satisfactorily met.
These conditions affect both exporting and importing countries.
Deficiencies identified by CITES officers will have to be remedied before trade can start.
An international networking and monitoring system, co-ordinated by CITES, IUCN and Traffic has to be set up.
The proposal was approved in those terms, and limited trade will be considered after all the conditions are met.
South Africa is not involved in the trade proposal, but will co-operate setting up the monitoring and reporting databases. The department is already working at that.
Next CITES meeting will take place in the second half of 1998, in Arusha (Tanzania).
Several other specific database monitoring systems, specific for elephants (ETIS) are being set up.
Co-ordinated monitoring is still to be implemented. Initial data required to establish networks, plans, will be available in 1999. Long-term monitoring seems essential.
Another important decision concerning the African Elephant was related to the ivory stocks. Countries maintain large ivory stocks at high costs and risks. The CITES meeting at Harare decide that countries may dispose (non-commercial sale) their ivory stocks under certain conditions:
The stocks have to be declared to CITES and Traffic secretariats.
Revenue of selling the stocks to be used for conservation.
South Africa did not declare their ivory stocks, therefore cannot apply for funds for conservation. Minister P. Jordaan took the decision.
In the last months, several poaching and illegal trade incidents in Kenya, Congo and Zimbabwe have been linked to the decision of moving the African Elephant to Appendix II. It has been claimed that poaching has increased 50% in Zimbabwe since the decision. The opinion of the Department is that this claim is premature.

The Chairperson offered the members of IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) the opportunity to state their position. This offer was declined, and the position will be forwarded later, after consultation with IFAW directors.

Several MPs asked the following questions, which were answered by Dr. Botha except where indicated:

Q: How many countries declared ivory stocks?
A: Cannot specify. All SADC countries except South Africa, Angola and Mauritius.

Q: What is non-commercial selling?
A: The buyers decide what to do with the stock, but cannot re-sell it.

Q; Why didn’t South Africa declare their stocks?
A: (Answered by Deputy Minister) South Africa has adopted the principle of sustainable use, but still has not decided how to implement it. Also, the Department is still not sure to have control over all the stocked ivory.

Q: Are we not making up our minds that poaching is not increasing because of the CITES decision?
A: No answer.

Q: How big is the South African ivory stock?
A: No answer.

Q: What does South Africa plan to do with its stock?
A: (Deputy Minister) Still not decided.

Q: What is the tonnage of ivory declared by those countries that declared it?
A: The figure cannot be provided right now.

Dr. Botha mentioned that South Africa had also submitted a proposal (initially submitted by the Natal Parks Board) to move white rhinos to Appendix II with the annotation that trade is only for other rhino products than rhino horn. South Africa committed to have a Zero-quota (not making use of the quota)
If the proposal was accepted. The proposal was not accepted.

A representative of the ESPU (Endangered Species Protection Unit) briefed on the realities of law enforcement against illegal trade. He drew a grim picture of the present effectiveness of the fight against poaching and contraband. Some of the most important points brought forward were:
Crime against endangered species is not a local problem, and local communities are only the end point of national/international organised trade.
South Africa is currently not able to control illegal trade, there is not enough control of what comes into the country and what leaves the country. Ivory, rhino horn goes in and out with little control.
Customs control is seriously fraud.
There is need for greater collaboration with other conservation agencies in and outside the country.
The realities of law enforcement were ignored in South Africa presentations at the CITES meeting.
Poaching and trading are going on. Killings found constantly. Rhino horn and ivory captured from poachers. Zimbabwe was claiming to have 2000 rhinos, but less than 300 were found in a census, ESPU has been advising of a rhino horn flow into South Africa.
Legalising the trade will not decrease the prices in black market.
There is an obvious lack of funds and resources to combat illegal trade.
The balance of illegal trade in South Africa may amount to hundreds of millions of rands every year. INTERPOL has rated this crime as second only to drug trafficking.
South Africa has not the power to deal with the trade derived of the downlisting.

The Deputy Minister agreed with the presentation of the ESPU representative and assured that the ESPU and the Department have to work closely together on this issue.

The Chairperson assigned a group of two or three committee members to meet with the ESPU representatives and take the issue further.



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