Some MEPs (including MEPs4Wildlife’s, MEP Catherine Bearder and MEP Neena Gill, plus 16 other cross-party MEPs) have lodged a formal “Written Declaration” on Trophy Hunting, calling for a review of EU policy to ensure that species listed within the EU’s Wildlife Trade Regulations (WTR) under Annex B are not hunted “detrimental to populations of any of the species.” Furthermore, for any species listed under the EU’s WTR Annex A, it must be shown that the hunting of the given Annex A species “benefited the conservation of Annex A species.” – The declaration concludes that these criteria are “rarely adequately determined.”
“The meeting ‘Trophy Hunting and the EU,’ 24 February 2016 will be held at the European Parliament and will be attended by representatives from European and African governments, and leading conservationists, as well as representatives from Born Free.”
We have been waiting since 15 December 2015 for the European Union’s (EU’s) Wildlife Trade Regulation (WTR) Scientific Review Group (SRG) to report its latest ‘scientific’ findings regarding lion Trophy Hunting in Zambia.
In September 2015, the SRG reversed a previous “negative” opinion for elephant trophy imports from Zambia. The trade in Zambian elephants are subject to careful monitoring by the EU WTR and any commercial trade must show ‘conservation’ benefits to the species. Furthermore the Zambian elephants are CITES Appendix I listed and so any trade subject to international CITES community regulation.
LionAid (reporting 16 February 2016) has obtained under the UK’s Freedom of Information rules, how the SRG made its September 2015 decision to reverse (U turn) and subsequently approve imports of Zambian elephant trophies. The results are shocking:
- Elephant population are based on standard extrapolations of observed sub-population data from 2013, resulting in a total estimated population of just 1,795 elephants in the National Park and 405 outside – This must be compared against a 2015 hunting quota of 36 elephants, but with some 381 elephants illegally poached in 2014;
- The Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) provided a letter to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the EU. The letter outlined all of the ZAWA’s management plans, anti-poaching efforts etc., but significantly, included an unsubstantiated assertion that Zambian elephant populations are increasing;
- A May 2015 letter from ZAWA’s Acting Director (Kampamba A Kombe) to the EU Directorate General Environment, basically pleading the Zambian’s case for seeking much needed income from hunting for local communities (unsubstantiated that this actually happens) and the “positive benefits” (unsubstantiated) for ‘conservation’ and anti-poaching, plus the local hunting operators that were suffering economic hardship following the “voluntary 2 year hunting” moratorium that had preceded May 2015’s letter.
Of course, this moratorium has not been heeded by the poachers in Zambia, so there is no evidence to support the notion that the voluntary lack of hunting ‘off-take’ had helped the recovery of the Zambian elephant population.
The conclusion we can draw from this ‘evidence’ used by the SRG in their decision making:
- is that at best it could be generously described as ‘subjective opinion’ based on extrapolated elephant sub-population numbers from 2013;
- The economic difficulties encountered due to any trophy import ban in Zambia are not the direct concern of science based sustainable hunting quota assessment (or at least, it shouldn’t be), so should not have influenced the SRG’s decision making.
Is the SRG’s September 2015 “positive”decision to allow the import of Zambian elephant trophies based on such data a good example of ensuring sustainable, scientifically based hunting quotas? No, it is not.
This SRG decision does not give one much confidence, or much credence to the EU’s WTR future abilities either, particularly when such SRG decision are cloaked in an opaque layer of secrecy and appear to be based on political will and pressure, not science. Greater transparency and ‘real’ scientific decision making procedures being adopted by the SRG is expected and required to restore credibility.