CITES Dateline – Bangkok, Friday, March 8, 2013

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The European Union Ambushes Hunters on Personal Effects:

An official Working Group has toiled for over two years to produce a sound policy on the shipment of personal effects for hunting trophies. However the European Union (EU), representing its 28 member countries, has ignored the recommendations of the official working group and called for exclusion of all hunting trophies from the personal effects exemption.

The practical effect is nil, since export permits for hunting trophies for CITES-listed species are already required by rule of the exporting country.  The issue arises with re-exports after the trophy gets home.

South Africa, supported by the U.S., opposed the EU move but has agreed to exclude rhino horn and elephant ivory because of the severe poaching problems for those species.  The issue went off to a working group over the weekend and SCI and SCI Foundation spoke to South African delegates who assured us that the exclusion will not go beyond rhino horn and elephant ivory.  All non-government organizations, including those supporting hunting and those opposed to hunting, were excluded from the working group.

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Rhinos in the Spotlight, Again: 

As reported by SCI and SCI Foundation’s delegation a few days ago, Kenya withdrew its proposal to ban white rhino hunting trophy exports from South Africa and Swaziland.  However, there is another document on rhino conservation that was considered today and there is some indication that Kenya may attempt to add some restrictions similar to its proposed ban into this new document.  The issue was sent to a weekend working group, so stay tuned.  SCI is on the working group along with 14 Party countries and two other non-government organizations.  SCI and SCI Foundation met with several Parties and other organizations on Friday evening to develop our strategy.

Legal Commercial Trade in Rhino Horn?:

At an evening side event, the South African government announced that is considering a move at a future CITES meeting to create a legal market for commercial trade in rhino horn.  They said that this was for the purpose of taking the profit incentive out of rhino poaching, not to satisfy market demand.

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The Elephant and Rhino Poaching Epidemic Used to Attack Hunters:

Most hunters have probably seen press coverage on the so-called pseudo hunting – where Asian nationals who were not actually hunters were able to get permits to take white rhinos in South Africa and they shipped the trophies right into the commercial trade.  A Thai national was sentenced to 40 years in prison in South Africa last November for his role in this scam.  South Africa has taken other steps to put an end to this situation.  It was reported today that there was an effort to use hunters from two European countries to obtain horns this way, but SCI and SCI Foundation learned that the horns were seized by the authorities on import, proving that the enforcement systems in place actually work.

This pseudo-hunting alarm, along with the escalation of both elephant and rhino poaching in the last two years has led to a lot of attention to the role of hunters, including open accusations today that hunters would sell their rhino horn trophies for the illegal trade in order to make money to cover the costs of their hunts.  The idea was that the hunter would make a fiberglass cast of the horn and sell the real horn.  There have also been reports of rhino horn being stolen from museums and from private trophy rooms.

As a result, there were many statements today calling for further restrictions on hunters and their trophies.  The SCI and SCI Foundation delegations met today to develop ways to combat this, and have spoken to several delegations about the deceptiveness of the allegations against hunters.

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New Guidelines Adopted for Scientific Findings that are Necessary before Permits will be Issued: 

CITES requires that before a permit can be issued to export a CITES-listed animal or plant a Scientific Authority in each exporting country must make a finding the that export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species – a “non-detriment finding” (NDF).  Many importing countries have been openly skeptical of the quality of NDFs by many exporting countries, and have threatened to seize shipments because they consider the permit to be invalid, due to lack of a proper NDF.  Today the conference adopted a set of guidelines for making NDFs.

SCI and SCI Foundation believe that it is important to have valid NDFs, but we are also do not think that there should be unrealistic and unnecessary bureaucratic requirements imposed on exporting Parties.  We worked with several delegations to assure that this document was actually a set of guidelines and not a set of mandates or rules.  The strategy was successful and while the document does increase expectations for making proper NDFs, the guidelines only establish “concepts,” not rules.

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