The Hague—In just one day,
CITES Parties undermined conservation efforts for two species targeted
by trophy hunters—leopards and, in particular, rhinos.
“It is terribly unfortunate that CITES Parties have again put
the interests of wealthy trophy hunters above the needs of imperiled
species,” said Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation
and Chairman of the Species Survival Network. “The
unceremonious slaughter of endangered species is not real
Despite a profound lack of
contemporary scientific information about the population
status of wild leopards in Africa, the United Nations meeting
yesterday supported proposals to establish or increase leopard trophy
export quotas for two African nations. CITES delegates in The Hague
approved a proposal by Uganda to export 28 leopard trophies annually;
Mozambique was allowed to double their quota from 60
to 120 leopard trophies annually.
Germany, speaking on behalf of the
European Union, supported both proposals while at the same
time acknowledging that the two countries had no current statistics
about leopard numbers and that the most recent figures were
from 1988. Inexplicably, they said that the quota was nonetheless
“CITES requires export
quotas to be science-based,” said Dr. Teresa Telecky,
Director of the Wildlife Trade Program for Humane Society International
and Chair of the Trophy Hunting Working Group of the SSN.
“The EU, which represents 27 Parties, ignored the lack of a
credible scientific basis in supporting these proposals.”
Experts consider the wild leopard
population to be declining in the wild although the actual number of
leopards is unknown. A continent-wide census has never been conducted
and neither Mozambique nor Uganda had any recent data on population
sizes. Even the older data they used in support of their proposals were
based on indirect counts using rainfall and available habitat to
estimate numbers: these methodologies are known to grossly
over-estimate leopard populations.
“The agreement to set
leopard export quotas arbitrarily and without requiring a
sound scientific basis undermines the credibility of the Convention,
endangers wild populations and sets a dangerous precedent for future
CITES decisions.” said Dr. Telecky.
In another startling move, Parties
reaffirmed their preference for sport hunting endangered black
rhinos rather than re-stocking former habitat. A
proposal from Kenya seeking to revoke the controversial decision,
approved at the last conference in Thailand, to allow both Namibia and
South Africa to sell the lives of five ‘surplus’
males, was debated briefly, then put to a vote which failed to get the
necessary two-thirds majority. Two countries, Rwanda and the
DRC, offered to pay a fair price for the rhinos and pay for their
relocation to re-stock their national parks that have been badly hit by
poaching. They hoped that the return of this charismatic
species would help boost tourism, which is now booming in Rwanda.
Their offer fell on deaf ears.
“Black rhinos are not just
ornaments; they play an important role in the ecology of their habitat,
but no-one yet puts a cash value on the ecosystem services provided by
rhinos,” commented Ian Redmond, a Born Free consultant and
vice-chair of the UK Rhino Group.
Redmond added: “There are
many thousands of square miles of former rhino habitat without rhinos.
These animals could have been part of a founder
population established to re-build ecosystems shattered by poaching.
It seems extraordinary that CITES would choose sport hunting
over habitat restoration, given that South Africa and Namibia would
still be paid for the animals!”.
For more information contact:
M. Roberts, Press
In The Hague: 06-5213 6798
WORLD FORUM CONVENTION CENTRE
10, Churchillplein NL-2508 THE HAGUE