Call to enhance protection of White and Black rhinoceros, African lions and African elephants
At 10,000 signatures we get a response from the government.
At 100,000 signatures our petition will be considered for a debate in Parliament.
Current UK/EU Position
16 September 2015
To the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra),
Call on UK Government to propose CITES(1) resolutions* to increase the protection of White and Black rhinoceros, African lions and African elephants.
*CITES Resolutions to be submitted by 26 April 2016 to the Conference of Parties to CITES (CoP17)(2) – South Africa, 24 September to 5 October, 2016.
Note: The referenced species are still subjected to losses to their populations from ‘commercial’ hunting (sadly permitted under certain CITES’ listings and exemptions) – Does any of this ‘commercial’ hunting activity contribute to conservation of these species? There is very little evidence to support the claim that ‘commercial’ hunting supports conservation:
1) White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
Call for the UK Government to propose a resolution to CITES (CoP17) for the removal of South Africa and Swaziland White rhino population exemptions from CITES Appendix l protection.
White rhinoceros are being poached in increasing number, so why allow them to be needlessly ‘used’ for trophy hunting which gives an impression of tacit acceptance of their exploitation?
2) Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)
Call for the UK Government to propose a resolution to CITES (CoP17) for no “hunting trophy” quotas from 2016 for the foreseeable future for the “Critically Endangered(6)” Black rhinoceros.
3) African lion (Panthera leo)
Call on the UK Government to propose a resolution to CITES (CoP17) for adding the African lion (Panthera Leo) to CITES Appendix l listing from the African lion’s current CITES Appendix II listing.
It should be noted that in March 2015, Australia(3) introduced stricter domestic measures to treat African lions as though they are listed on Appendix I of CITES. I am wondering if the UK will follow suit and show that the UK wishes to support the protection of wild African lion populations.
4) African elephant (Loxodonta Africana)
Call on the UK Government to propose a resolution to CITES (CoP17) for the removal of exemptions of African elephant populations in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from CITES Appendix I listing. At the moment African elephant populations in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe are currently only CITES Appendix II listed.
Relevant Species Numbers
White rhino (Ceratotherium simum) – Classed as “Near Vulnerable” by the IUCN(4).
White rhino species numbers are now estimated at just 20,409(5).
Southern white – Ceratotherium simum simum, population 20,405
Northern white – Ceratotherium simum cottoni, population 3(13)
Black rhino (Diceros bicornis) – Classed as “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN(6).
Black rhino species numbers are now estimated at just 5,055(5):
Eastern (Diceros bicornis michaeli), population 799
South Western (Diceros bicornis bicornis), population 1,957
South central (Diceros bicornis minor), population 2,299
Note: Namibia and South Africa were allowed a CITES quota of 5 adult male black rhino each in 2015 (see Resolution Conf.13.5, Rev.CoP14) for “hunting trophies” of this species, despite this species being listed as “Critically Endangered(6)” and under CITES Appendix I protection since 1977.
The dubious ‘conservation’ that seems to have been accepted in some circles for the continued Trophy Hunting of rhino(16) is clearly not the only way to potentially raise income to protect rhino (and ‘excuse’ the killing of rhino for trophies at the same time).
One alternative approach(15) to ‘meet’ the unabated demand from Asia is to breed rhino in protected farms. The South African farm owned by John Hume has the largest privately owned rhino herds in the world. The farm harvests a rhino’s horns under ‘safe and painless’ anesthetised conditions, after which the rhino is released back into the farm’s protection. The rhino’s horn eventually grows back after about two years. The harvested horns are micro-chipped and currently stock-piled in a very secure vault. Under South African law only rhino horn extracted by a permit (concession) Trophy Hunt, can the resulting rhino horn ‘legally’ be exported.
As John Hume’s argues that under the current law “We are basically telling the Vietnamese that it is fine to kill an animal because our tradition of cutting off a rhino’s head to put on a wall as decoration is acceptable. But your tradition of cutting off its horn to use as ‘medicine’ is abominable”
Legalising the rhino horn trade may be one of the approaches that helps reduce poaching. In theory, ‘legal’ farm supplied rhino horn being released from stock-piles to meet demand will mean that prices paid will fall, thus making poaching less viable, plus making farms like John Hume’s more commercially viable. Changes to the governing law are being mooted in the South African government. There are several different options for extending the ‘legalised’ trade in rhino horn:
- One off sale of rhino horn stockpiles
- Domestic trade in rhino horn
- (Semi) permanent international CITES regulated sale
In terms of rhino horn, then harvesting the horns (in a sustainable way, that doesn’t kill the ‘donating’ rhino) and allow legal export from farms ‘might’ help reduce illegal poaching, but what sort of world is that we are condoning? On the other hand, pandering in any shape or form to the preposterous demand side is not any sort of long term answer to anything. It will not necessarily save the rhino from poaching – I can see that a ‘South African sanctioned, ‘self-approved,’ farmed rhino horn trade’ could also be infiltrated/corrupted easily by the poachers if the profit share is favourably ‘negotiated’ via this dubious ‘self-approved route’ somewhere within the supply chain.
It has also been suggested that this ‘self-approved’ South African route for rhino horn (if not successfully challenged) could also set a precedent for ‘canned’ lions (and any other target species) to become exclusively farmed used/abused/exploited to increase profits from the ‘trade’ for hypothetical ‘medicines.’
If support for ‘canned’ lion and big cat hunting is truly being withdrawn (“The End of Canned Hunting is Imminent”) this could be the South African animal exploitation fall-back position.
The message this ‘strategy’ sends to the poachers, is that it’s OK to farm and make money meeting the preposterous (and increasing) Asian demand for unsubstantiated ‘medicines’ made from animal parts, so why should the poacher be deterred from also continuing to try to ‘cash-in?’
African lion (Panthera leo) – Classed as “Vulnerable” but borderline “Endangered” by the IUCN(7).
According to Wild CRU(8) has stated:
“[African] lions are in crisis. Because lions are uniquely visible to tourists there is a false impression that they are not endangered. The opposite is true: they are disappearing in plain sight. From an estimated population of 200,000 across Africa a century ago, and 30,000 a decade ago, as few as 20,000 lions may now roam free in the entire continent. Their numbers have been devastated by loss of habitat and wild prey, poaching, conflict with farming communities, unsustainable legal hunting, and emerging threats including the use of lion bones in traditional Asian medicine. Lions are being killed daily in Africa.”
According to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(7), African lions are “Vulnerable” but borderline “Endangered” where the IUCN concludes:
“With this in mind, we have greater confidence in the estimate of fewer than 20,000 lions in Africa than in a number over 30,000.”
“This qualifies the lion as Vulnerable, but it is of great concern that the vast majority of the population is inferred to have declined at a rate that meets the criteria for Endangered. Since our sample populations were all monitored, we suspect an even greater average rate of decline for unmonitored unfenced populations across much of Africa, since lack of monitoring could suggest lack of conservation effort.”
The number of lions in South Africa is also ‘confused’ by lions held in ‘canned’ hunting farms. According to government and private sectors sources(9), it is thought there are about 200 farms and breeding facilities holding somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 predators in captivity. The vast majority held, possibly as many as 7,000 of these, are lions. Other species held include cheetah and leopard as well as a host of exotic animals such as tiger, jaguar and puma.
Furthermore, Ian Michler(10) of Blood Lions has suggested that many ‘canned’ lions have been genetically muted through poor breeding management and these ‘mutated’ lions could never be released into wild populations for fear of genetic contamination. So, it could be easily argued that the inclusion of genetically mutated ‘canned’ African lions in with wild, pure African lion (Panthera leo) population estimates clouds the true picture and vulnerability of the species.
In the United Stated (US) the African lion has been proposed as an addition to the Endangered Species Act list, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service(14) has yet to ‘finalise’ the designation:
“Following a review of the best available scientific information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed listing the African lion as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agency’s analysis found that lions are in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.” – 27 October 2014.
The Born Free Foundation summarises the dramatic decline of the African lion’s population as follows:
1900 – up to 1 million
1940s – 450,000
1980s – 100,000
1990s – 50,000
2015 – as few as 20,000 officially classed as ‘Vulnerable’ with the West African population ‘Critically Endangered.’
African elephant (Loxodonta Africana) – Classed as “Vulnerable” but “Endangered” in Central Africa by IUCN(12).
The World Wildlife Fund(11) has stated:
“Despite a ban on the international trade in ivory, African elephants are still being poached in large numbers. Since 1979, African elephants have lost over 50% of their range and this, along with massive poaching for ivory and trophies over the decades, has seen the population drop significantly. Back in the early part of the 20th century, there may have been as many as 3-5 million African elephants. But there are now around 500,000.”
According to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(12), African elephant populations are generally declared “Vulnerable” but “Endangered” in Central Africa. It should also be noted that these ‘current’ assessments are based on data only up to and including 2007.
- CITES– Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora;
- CoP17 – Conference of Parties to CITES, South Africa, 24 September to 5 October, 2016
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, White rhinoceros, published 2012
- Save the Rhino
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Black rhinoceros, published 2012
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, African Lion, published 2015
- Wild CRU – Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
- Blood Lions
- Traveller 24 News, Interview with Ian Michler, 25 August 2015
- World Wildlife Fund – Elephants
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, African elephant, published 2008
- Extinct in the wild – The last male Northern white rhino, S Wiggins – IWB, 19 September 2015
- US Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS), US FWS – African lion, 27 October 2014
- “Rhino Wars” – Peter Gwin, National Geographic, March 2012
- Leader-Williams N., Milledge S., Adcock K., Brooks M., Conway A., Knight M., Mainka S., Martin E.B. & Teferi T. (2005). “Trophy Hunting of Black Rhino: Proposals to Ensure Its Future Sustainability” – Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, 8 (1) 1-11. DOI: 10.1080/13880290590913705
Note: CITES protection falls into three distinct categories:
Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants.
Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.
Appendix III is a list of species included at the request of a Party that already regulates trade in the species and that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation.