On July 1, 2013, President Oba-ma issued an Executive Order to combat wildlife trafficking (www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/07/01/executive-order-combating-wildlife-trafficking). Its stated objective is to control international wildlife poaching and trafficking. To implement the Order, the President created two bodies, a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking and an Advisory Council that will work together to implement an effective National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking (www.fws.gov/international/pdf/filed-charter-2013-advisory-council-wildlife-trafficking.pdf). While this was a welcomed action that should afford greater wildlife protection from unlawful taking and trade, we expect the action to cause a litany of headaches for governments that need and rely upon sustainable use of their wildlife resources and for the hunting community nationally and internationally. Already, too many recommendations are overreaching and require close scrutiny and participation.
On October 7, 2013, a strange mix of organizations sent Recommendations to the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking. The objective of those recommendations is “to prevent poaching, disrupt trafficking and to curtail demand.” The very first recommendation, 1.a, is alarming. It is not aimed at poaching. It is aimed at lawful hunting and legitimate hunters. It calls for a 10-year or longer moratorium on legal trade of both rhino horn and ivory!
1. Reduce Demand for Illicit Wildlife Products
a) Establish and implement a domestic moratorium on the import, export and sale of ivory and rhino horn products (including pre-Convention and antique specimens) in the United States. As a priority objective, a US moratorium would serve to: (1) reduce demand for rhino horn and ivory, (2) reduce illicit trafficking in rhino horn and ivory by removing parallel legal and illegal markets and the resulting opportunities for laundering of illegal wildlife products and (3) provide an example that encourages other countries to take similar legal and regulatory measures….Other important consideration under a moratorium are how to best address hunting trophies and the problem of “lookalike,” which allow traffickers to claim that illegal products (such as African and Asian elephant ivory that resembles mammoth ivory) are legal or regulated. We recommend that trophy imports be limited by criteria designed by the Administration to most effectively promote the conservation of elephant species, while sales of ivory from trophy tusks, whether current held in the US or imported in the future, be included in the ivory sale moratorium. We further recommend that regulatory measures are established to address the “lookalike” problem. (Emphasis added)
Other subparts of that very first recommendation call for the USFWS to “(b) Publicly destroy government seized elephant ivory,” and that “(c) the US Department of Education to integrate wildlife trade issues in school programs, by means comparable to drug education programs” and “undertake an intelligence assessment in the US and abroad of (1) the challenges posed by parallel markets for legal and illicit wildlife products….”
The mix of organizations submitting the recommendations is alarming in itself. While submitted “jointly,” the recommendations “do not in all cases reflect consensus opinions.” The list of “contributing” organizations includes Born Free USA, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Investigative Agency, Humane Society International, Humane Society of the United States, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), et al. as well as the less onerous World Wildlife Fund (WWF, who is said to have hosted the meeting for the letter of recommendations), Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, TRAFFIC, African Wildlife Foundation, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, et al. No hunting organization is listed as being invited or “contributing.” We wonder if this “joint” letter was fully authorized by TRAFFIC, WWF, et al.
We find the mixture of organizations strange in light of the tone of the first listed recommendation. Nevertheless, the emergency listing of the southern white rhino as “threatened” on July 11th as a “lookalike” is concerning. We have sent a Freedom of Information Act request to USFWS to obtain the correspondence between Law Enforcement and the listing office that was said in the published listing notice to be the cause of the action but with little explanation. We have no evidence at this time that there has indeed been a problem for Law Enforcement. Second, we filed comments opposing the listing without more detailed reasons for the lookalike classification and suggested adopting a Special Rule to dispense with or at least issuing a statement that enhancement findings will not be necessary for import of southern white rhino from Namibia and Zimbabwe (on Appendix I). Enhancement findings are notorious for adding expenses and delay or being a complete barrier to import permitting. The Federal Register Notice of the emergency listing does not address the enhancement finding issues for those rhino on Appendix I of CITES (Namibia and Zimbabwe) at all. USFWS has since informally told us that they will not require enhancement findings because the white rhino’s listing is based solely upon being a lookalike. The southern white rhino has a robust population that is still at record numbers at this time. Lookalike listings still cause us concern. What will be listed next?