October 4th was the final deadline for species specific proposals for CITES 16th Conference of the Parties to be held March 3-15, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand. The game mammals proposed for transfer of Appendix are the white rhino, elephant, polar bear and the Pyrenean Chamois – not the African lion, the Zambia elephant, the Pacific walrus or the narwhal, nor is there any Southern African white rhino proposal. In short, Kenya has proposed establishing a zero quota on hunting trophies and live trade of white rhino from South Africa and Swaziland for six years. Tanzania is again attempting to downlist its elephant to Appendix II for trophy trade and for a one-off conditional sale of part of its ivory stockpile; Kenya, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Mali and Togo are proposing prohibition of more elephant proposals until at least nine years after CoP14; the United States is proposing the transfer of polar bear to Appendix I with the effect of prohibiting all international commercial trade; Denmark on behalf of the European Union Member States (EU) is proposing the downlisting of the Pyrenean chamois from Appendix I to Appendix II (this is the chamois on the France-Spain border, i.e. Pyrenean Mountains).
US Proposes Uplisting
Polar Bear Again
The USFWS submitted both its species proposals and other agenda items, which are available in full on its website at http://www.fws.gov/international/cites/cop16/index.html. The CITES Secretariat has published its first provisional list of proposals for amendment of Appendices I and II (updated October 9, 2012) but not other agenda items such as Resolutions, Decisions and informational documents. The actual proposals of countries other than the United States are not yet available except for the Secretariat’s description.
The United States is proposing the transfer of polar bear from Appendix II to Appendix I. Its other eight proposals are not game-related. The US proposal to transfer the polar bear to Appendix I is very controversial. Of course, it is being made over the objection of Canada and Nunavut. A similar proposal failed at CoP15 after the CITES Secretariat’s opening remark that “CITES is not in the business of making ice,” and the EU member states voted against the US proposal. It was rejected with 48 Parties in favor, 62 against and 11 abstentions. Passage required two-thirds of those voting.
The bear was listed on the ESA as threatened because of projected changes in sea ice habitat, but that does not prevent American native trade, which would not be the same case if it were listed on Appendix I of CITES. This may have an end-run effect on international native trade and backlash on the Administration and political party rumored to be satisfying the animal rights fanatics who have lobbied for the proposal.
The recent increase in quota in Western Hudson Bay is a major point of contention. Nunavut increased that quota from eight to 21 bears despite the earlier recommendation that it be decreased by the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group according to the USFWS. Nunavut authorities want to base bear management practices on current information and not predictions about what might happen or outdated simulations. What the US proposal conspicuously does not state is that same Specialist Group wrote that it strongly opposed the US proposal to uplist and that the Specialist Group’s quota recommendation predated subsequent population surveys, not just population simulations relied upon by critics. Both the animal protectionists’ and USFWS’ proposals cite studies, changing opinions and positions out of chronological order. Nevertheless, the proposal states that four of the five polar bear range states were consulted and don’t think the bear merit inclusion in Appendix I. Canada: “convinced that polar bears do not merit inclusion….” Denmark/Greenland: “did not see any need to transfer….” Norway: “species was adequately protected…and that no further action was indicated.” The fifth, the Russian Federation: one official “indicated that they would support a proposal….”
Kenya Proposes Zero Quota
for White Rhino
The South Africa and Swaziland white rhino are currently on Appendix II with an annotation that trade be limited to trophy trade and live trade, and for all other purposes it remains on Appendix I. This Kenya proposal to impose a “zero quota” would prohibit that limited trade. It is noteworthy that the proposal tracks the same suggestion made to the USFWS more than a year ago by the Species Survival Network (SSN). See Questions and Answers, pg. 25-26 referenced in 77 FR 21798, April 11, 2012. Apparently SSN was shopping around, as they do, for a country to make the proposal, and Kenya accepted the challenge. Kenya challenged the black rhino quotas at the last CoP, but was soundly defeated when it insisted upon a vote.
Despite a great deal of posturing from some interests in the white rhino ranching industry in South Africa, there is no proposal to liberalize trade such as de-horning and commercial sale of ranched rhino horn. The largest private rhino owner, John Hume, stopped safari hunting of his rhino on the basis that the horn was potentially worth much more as a commercial product. Well, the proposal that would permit such trade, much less its CoP passage, has not materialized. Nevertheless, Kenya has introduced its counter-proposal to eliminate even trophy trade. The short of it is that trophy hunting has already been voluntarily curtailed due to a pipe dream for higher profits from commercial sale.
Leopard Permit Clarification
Botswana, South Africa and the US have submitted a joint document to revise the leopard quota resolution in a good faith effort to clarify when and where the quota for the year of take and the separate quota for the year of export is appropriate. This is aimed at the law enforcement seizure crisis that began in 2011 and continued into the first few months of 2012 in some ports of entry in the US, where hunters’ trophies were seized and treated as contraband by USFWS port inspectors. There are too many variables to determine this early whether the amendment will evolve into a true fix. For one thing, it would only revise the leopard quota resolution, Res. 10.14 (Rev. CoP14), not the resolution governing permits and certificates (Rev. 12.3, Section VII, Rev. CoP15). It also only contends with leopards, not other listed species with quotas that were seized during the crisis, like elephant and crocodile. Unless the fix includes other species, it is likely to occur again.
No Lion Proposals
Despite lots of signals, no proposal materialized to uplist the African lion. This gives the hunting community more time to shore up lion management and practices. It will be three years until the next CoP. In the interval, the antis’ proposal in the United States to list the lion on the ESA will no doubt be resolved, for better or worse.
Believe me, it is no accident that there is no proposal to uplist the lion. Extra-special thanks goes to Shikar Safari Club’s Foundation for its unexcelled contributions to Tanzania lion management, Philippe Chardonnet and IGF, and the many other champions of lion conservation across Africa. One and all, please stay the course. The hunter’s role must be documented and perceived to be positive and must in fact be positive.