Good news from UN meeting on illegal wildlife trade

March 23, 2010

We can be cautiously optimistic about news from Doha in Qatar where the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has been meeting. Seems an agreement has been reached on wildlife trade which could mean that trading in illegal tiger parts will be treated as seriously as dealing in arms and drug trafficking. The agreement states the EU and tiger range countries will use INTERPOL to share intelligence against poachers and traders.

The news has implications for countries not acting on their people  illegally trading in snow leopard parts too. All parties to CITES have agreed to monitor the illegal trade in these endangered cats along with the tigers.

Without the co-operation of major enforcement communities it’s been difficult to make headway despite all snow leopard range countries having laws against the killing and sale of snow leopards.

“There have been many promises this week, but getting countries to actually use these new enforcement tactics will be the real test of the commitment to ending tiger trade, and saving the species”, said Debbie Banks, Senior Campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency, and Chair of the Species Survival Network’s Big Cat Working Group.

“Time is running out for tigers and other big cats. Tiger range countries and consumer nations need to work together to reduce demand for their parts and stamp out the illegal tiger trade”, said Avinash Basker, Legal Consultant to the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

Tiger and snow leopard conservationists have another piece of weaponry now, but it will still require action and followup. This means more money for CITES, which is currently only funded to around $5m per year, a pittance when we consider all the flora and fauna that’s endangered and the support that developing nations especially, need to protect their endangered species.

Advertisements

what to do if you see illegal snow leopard fur etc for sale

December 4, 2009

The Snow Leopard Trust blog has just posted some really good information on what people can do if they see anyone trying to sell snow leopard furs etc. It may happen that you see this in your travels or even in your travels around the internet. It can be confusing but check these really useful guidelines from the SLT here.


China still trading illegal snow leopard skins

October 28, 2009

EIA logoThe Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) recently conducted undercover investigations into the illegal big cat skin and bone trade in China and found it easy to get tiger, snow leopard and other leopard skins.

‘China has really run out of excuses. They tell us they are doing their best, but we have been warning them about this for years and there are still huge gaps in their enforcement effort. If they can put a man into space, they can do more to save the wild tiger’, said Debbie Banks, Lead Campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency.

The EIA team did three weeks of undecover work during July and August this year and captured the illegal trade on film using a hidden camera while they enquired about animal skins on sale. During this time they were offered 11 snow leopard skins as well as many other cat parts. In a sad video the sellers show skins from Nepal, Mongolia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. “We can get you anything you want,” they say.

While buying and selling any big cat parts is definitely illegal in China it seems a lot of this activity is actually not too difficult to find in many parts of China including Tibet. Researchers found local officials in the vicinity of the shops trading the illegal goods and people at a horse festival in Tibet openly wearing skins in view of local authorities.

The EIA believes that the skins are less in demand from Tibetans themselves these days – perhaps the plea from the Dalai Lama in 2006 for Tibetans to stop wearing skins of endangered animals has worked. But demand from middle class and wealthy Chinese business people, army personell and government officials has not dropped. The skins are bought for home décor or clothing in Tibet and China, costing huge amounts of money that more people can now afford. A snow leopard skins costs around $US2200.

According to the EIA the illegal trade is organised by extensive criminal networks. ‘There is some law enforcement in China, in a few regions, but there are whole swathes of the country where this trade is allowed to carry on with almost no fear of detection. A mixture of corruption and apathy is helping to decimate endangered species and is indicative of what is happening to the wider environment,’ said Alasdair Cameron of EIA.

The EIA has provided the Chinese government with this sort of evidence for over 5 years but there appears so much localised corruption that little has changed.

The Environmental Investigation Agency is a UK-based Non Government Organisation that investigates and campaigns against environmental crime including illegal wildlife trade.

See BBC story and video here.

India Today imageSee interview with Debbie Banks from India Today TV.


Illegal hunting and killing of snow leopards

July 7, 2009
Traffic International "Fading Footprints" 2003

Traffic International "Fading Footprints" 2003

I’m reading one of the most comprehensive and powerful reports on the trade of wild snow leopards called “Fading Footprints – the killing and trade of snow leopards.”

It’s a huge piece of research, published in 2003 by TRAFFIC it makes quite depressing reading. At the time the research was conducted, despite legislation protecting snow leopards in most of their range countries, they are still being hunted and killed for furs and body parts for traditional medicines. When furs can be sold for $US300-$US800 its easy to see the incentive. Retribution killing by farmers protecting livestock is also still common especially in areas where they’ve had not education about how to protect their livestock.

Recognising that all the range countries have different challenges the report outlines many recommendations for how things could be improved, like strengthening enforcement of the laws. This makes sense. Having laws isn’t enough if they can’t be enforced then snow leopards hunting will continue. The antipoaching team, the Gruppa Bars in Kyrgyztan (see my recent blog post) is one example of this.

 Other recommendations include helping the local communities that share snow leopard habitat which is one of the most important things that both the Snow Leopard Trust and the Snow Leopard Conservancy are doing. Its been found that when local communities understand how rare and endangered the snow leopards are they are willing to work to protect it if they aren’t financially disadvantaged.

The report is almost 6 years old. Much has been done by many dedicated agencies and people throughout the range countries. But there’s no doubt that the cats are still under huge threats.


Kyrgyz anti-poaching unit gets tough

May 23, 2009
NABU Gruppa Bars antipoaching unit

NABU Gruppa Bars anti poaching unit. Photo by NABU.

The “Gruppa Bars”, an anti-poaching unit was set up to save snow leopards in the Kyrgyz Republic 10 years ago with the help of funding from the German conservation agency NABU.

Gruppa Bars means ‘snow leopard’ in Kyrgyz. The team has far-reaching powers and is equipped with weapons. They have the power to arrest suspects and seize live animals, skins, weapons and other evidence.

In the last decade the Gruppa Bars have captured 180 poachers and confiscated many snow leopard pelts as well as furs from other endangered animals. They’ve also confiscated and destroyed hundreds of traps. There’s no doubt this team has made a huge difference in saving snow leopards in the country.

Since the late 90’s living standards fell sharply after the dissolution of the Soviet states and the demand for snow leopard parts (for traditional medicine in China) and fur meant the cats in Kyrgyzstan have been hunted relentlessly.

Female Alcu injured by a trap. Now lives in a reserve. Photo by NABU.

Female Alcu injured by a trap. Now lives in a reserve. Photo by NABU.

A few years ago three live cats were saved after they’d been captured in brutal traps. All had parts of their paws removed because of the traps and can’t hunt successfully or feed themselves. But they’re now living protected in a large enclosure in a NABU supported wildlife reserve.