The 16th Conference of the Parties of CITES was held in Bangkok, Thailand from Sunday, March 3 through Friday, March 15. The Conference was relatively successful for the hunting community with the exception of the suspension of hippo trade in Cameroon and Mozambique. The key wins concerned secret ballots, polar bear, white rhino, elephant trade, leopard quotas and elephant quotas.
The number of Parties necessary to call for secret votes on issues occupied the first few days of the Conference. The debate got into whether the vote to change the number of Parties necessary for a secret ballot should itself be secret. Sparing you all the details, the requirement that no more than 10 Parties are necessary to call for a secret ballot survived the challenges. This was important to the tenor of the Conference. There are lots of reasons for and against secret ballots, but a loss would have demoralized the undeveloped countries that feel bullied by developed countries and old colonial interests. Polar Bear Proposal Defeated
From the hunting perspective, the US proposal to uplist the polar bear to Appendix I was one of the hardest fought we have witnessed since the elephant fights of the late 80s and early 90s. The US spared no effort to uplist the bear over Canada’s objection. The US proposal was defeated. It did not get the required supermajority (2/3rds of those voting). The vote was 38 for the uplisting, 42 against and 46 abstentions. Twenty-eight of the abstentions were the EU’s block vote of 28 countries. The other abstentions were largely due to confusion by non-range states from all the misinformation, lapel buttons, stuffed polar bear dolls handed out and carried by Party delegates and NGOs alike. They even had costumed polar bears at the entranceway. People stood in line to have their pictures taken with antis in bear costumes like the Easter Bunny. The radical SSN (Species Survival Network) that now claims to have 100 members, and the HSUS and HSI (Humane Society of the United States and Human Society International) that are its leading members, flooded the building with soft, cuddly symbols with obvious effect on everyone. Canada and the Inuit held their ground and even rejected an EU alternate proposal that would have left the bear on Appendix II with all kinds of oversight that suggested mismanagement and lack of capacity. Canada and its Inuit people came right back with the facts that they spend millions of dollars a year on their bear, they have 60 percent of the world population that still has the same range and numbers, that it is a ground-up management program (from local co-management agreements to international treaties), that it is the best management system in the world, older than CITES (CITES was celebrating its 40th anniversary), etc. Canada came back strong. For days after the floor debacle I watched the antis secretly videotaping the Inuit leaders at their public presentations trying to fathom the Inuit appeal.
After the defeat, the USF&WS issued a misleading press release that the listing criteria justified the listing and that politics and emotions ruled the day. This appalled the EU, Canada and most of the delegates. From the beginning, the leading criteria experts and others explained the proposal did not meet the criteria. The Secretariat issued a final position that it did not meet the criteria, as did the IUCN, WWF, TRAFFIC, the Polar Bear Specialist Group, even the Pew Foundation. It was also self-evident from the ferocity of the US effort that this was not about the polar bear, Canada, their wonderful people or anything being disclosed. The polar bear management system and CITES itself were to be sacrificed for something else. This was not an ordinary effort to uplist a species. It was an extraordinary campaign that went down in sound defeat. The floor gossip was that US President Obama had given the order. Whatever was behind it, the US position and misrepresentation of the facts was shameless and an affront to our neighbors. It was disgusting, and I am sorry to have witnessed it. It was a rigorous misinformation campaign. Had it been successful it would have compromised our neighbor, their bear and CITES itself.
At this writing, I had not yet received all of the key floor speeches of the polar bear debate, but two are included below because of what they demonstrate. Conservation Force is doing a FOIA request for the US presentation and will put all on its website (www.conservationforce.org) under News and Alerts when available. The last comment permitted by the Chair of the Committee in the two and one-half hour debate was that of Bob Broscheid of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. It is included here because it really buttoned down the issues. You can be proud of your state agencies! The USF&WS lost its cool (heads bobbing and fast talking) when this nail was driven into the coffin of their proposal. White Rhino Proposal Withdrawn
Kenya’s proposal to suspend white rhino trade of hunting trophies for 15 years was withdrawn after the CITES Secretariat and others said it was not technically correct. It nevertheless created a forum to discuss pseudo-hunting of rhino. The protectionists said that most hunts in recent years have been disguised commercial hunts, i.e. the purpose has become the sale of the horn after export rather than the safari and personal use as a trophy afterwards. Make no mistake about it, there have been hundreds of pseudo-hunts, and the regulatory reaction to this is starting to spill over into hunting of other listed species. A decision was even made to develop another definition of a “hunting trophy” but this one limited to rhino hunting trophies. This development must be monitored carefully at the next Standing Committee meeting and next CoP in South Africa in 2016. The EU (28 countries) made a number of interventions to add special conditions on elephant hunts as well as rhino hunts to ensure the hunts are in fact for non-commercial purposes in the importing country, i.e. not being conducted under fraudulent pretenses.
Rhino poaching has reached a “crisis level” and is accelerating (TRAFFIC). Though alarming, it has not reached the point that the overall white rhino population is declining – yet. Ditto elephant poaching. All sorts of steps have been initiated. No doubt a lot of poachers are going to die in the coming year. In the case of rhino horn, the antis claim that the pseudo-hunts have caused the rising demand and price. TRAFFIC states it is not true, but believe me, this is not a position the hunting community wants to be in. There is no doubt that the price of white rhino hunts are now so high that few hunters can afford them and that the increased demand for horn has driven the price up for our own hunts.
Conservation Force distributed a DVD, the second of its kind, entitled The White Rhino – A Conservation Success Story. It included an extensive interview of the iconic Ian Player and other rhino experts in South Africa. It was filmed by The Osprey Filming Co. at the cost of the Hunter Proud organization and greatly aided by the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA), which attended this CoP. The producer was Zig Mackintosh, and director was yours truly, John J. Jackson, III. It portrays the positive
economics of safari hunting by bonafide hunters and the critical role hunting has had in the recovery of rhino. The question remains what to do now to keep the rhino. The DVD can be viewed on Conservation Force’s website under News and Alerts at http://www.conservationforce.org/whiterhinovideo.html. Elephant Downlisting for Stockpiles Withdrawn
Tanzania withdrew its proposal to downlist its elephant to Appendix II for conditional trade of its stockpile and trophies before the CoP started. The proposal of Kenya and others for a moratorium on downlisting proposals and conditional sales was also withdrawn. This nevertheless provided opportunity for searching meetings on how to control ivory poaching. Hippo Trade Suspended for Cameroon and Mozambique
Perhaps the worst at this CoP was the confirmation of the suspension of trade of hippo recommended by the Standing Committee. Cameroon has submitted some data justifying its non-detriment for hippo trade but the information had come in too late. The Parties allowed a small “portal” for review of the data by all concerned committees over the next few months if possible. If not sufficient, the lift of the suspension may have to wait for the next CoP in 2016! Mozambique is in worse straits. Its non-detriment data was just submitted at this CoP so no review had been made. Mozambique may not make the “portal” over the next few months. Though Conservation Force made an intervention that Mozambique be reviewed with the Cameroon data, it may not be doable and/or may be influenced by the kind and quality of data Mozambique has produced. If too little information, Mozambique hippo trophies will not be importable until 2016, if then. African Lion Postponed for CoP17
The African lion only came up one time. The Animals Committee reported that the Periodic Review of the loin was not completed so that item was referred back to the Animals and Standing Committee to complete at the meetings in 2014 and to report at CoP17 in 2016 in South Africa as appropriate.
During the CoP, Philippe Chardonnet of IGF and Conservation Force interviewed all the lion range state Directors of Wildlife and delegations collecting data on lion status. IPHA paid for most of Philippe’s out-of-pocket costs as well as for the costs of lion scientist Paula White and Almut Kronsbein of Namibia Professional Hunting Association, who is a Vice-President of International Professional Hunters’ Association. These three people along with Adri Kitshoff, Executive Officer of the Professional Hunting Association of South Africa, were key members of a close network of individuals working together, and which in turn were partners of the larger network of NGOs that favor sustainable use, including AFWA, SCI, FACE, CIC and IWMC. The Chair of the relatively new Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group, Rosie Cooney, was in attendance and meetings were held with her as well. Hundreds of little progressions were made for conservation of wildlife on the sidelines by those of us who favor sustainable use. For example, with the help of Philippe Chardonnet, who is co-chair of the IUCN’s Antelope Specialist Group, projects for Dama gazelle, addax and scimitar-horned oryx were initiated by Conservation Force with the Wildlife Directors of Tunisia, Nigeria and Morocco. Multiple Year Harvest Quotas Addressed
An amendment was passed that eliminated the basis for requiring two quotas for leopard. Leopard trophy permits must have the harvest quota for the year of take, not a second, double quota of the year of export. No more of those double quotas for leopard that we have reported on in the past.
Another amendment, Res. Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16) was adopted providing that elephant export permits only have the quota marked on the tusks for the year of harvest, not the export quota of some subsequent year of export. This mimics the leopard cure above.
Conservation Force was not able to extend the cure for problems in some US ports of entry for double quotas for crocodile and other species. Nevertheless, we did serve on the working group that called for the Parties, Secretariat and Standing Committees to review the new leopard quota provision and its applicability to other species. The decision calls upon all Parties experiencing difficulty to report it to the Secretariat before the next Standing Committee meeting, SC65, in 2014 when additional reform will be considered.