Australia likes to pride itself in having tough wildlife legislation. In theory, at least, Australian legislation for these types of wildlife crime appear significant: up to 10 years imprisonment or up to an AUD $180K fine. In practice, the situation is quite different. Between 2010 and 2016 nearly 450 seizures of rhino horn and ivory happened at the Australian border. None of these seizures resulted in a fine or prosecution; just a confiscation; this doesn’t even constitute a slap on the wrist.
As a result, we would say that a transparent and honest country scorecard should be implemented, for both signatory and non-signatory countries, one that realistically assesses the ‘genuine’ action a country has taken to address the illegal wildlife trade.
The Australian Commonwealth Government:
Signing up to such agreements, declarations or principles is of little value if no serious actions are taken to address the illegal wildlife trade, not just on our borders, but also the laundering of illegal items into our – still entirely legal and unregulated – domestic trade. Australia has a lot more to do on this front.
There is a herd of elephants in the room!
Elephant in the room 1: Does Farming = Conservation?
Elephant in the room 2: Farming = Trade = Knowing What the Customer Wants
Elephant in the room 3: Why is a trade regulation body (CITES) and not a conservation body the primary agency and arbiter in this space?
Elephant in the room 4: The CITES database/permit system is not fit for purpose
Elephant in the room 5: The illusion of CITES signatory responsibility
As we get closer to the rhino horn auction, we must ask conservation organisations to make clear statements on what they support; do they support farming of rhinos and, as a result, can they clarify how farming = conservation?
As we head towards the 4th International wildlife Trade conference, in the UK in October 2018, do concerned citizens around the world request that:
- Resources are put in to significantly upgrading the CITES database/permit system to bring it up to the standards needed to stand up to a forensic audit and protect wildlife
- A robust signatory score card system is developed that rates a country on the ‘genuine’ actions it is taking to address the illegal wildlife trade, not just on our borders, but also to ensure laundering of illegal items into legal domestic markets is impossible.
- A transition to an International Nature Custodian body, and away from a trade body, being the primary agency and arbiter facilitating decisions on protecting the natural world.
And finally, given all this will take time to implement, do concerned citizens request trade moratoriums be implemented for critical species whiles these are being designed, implemented, tested and confirmed to be fit for purpose. Surely, it’s time to take the protection of wildlife seriously.
These are the views of the author: Dr. Lynn Johnson, Founder, Breaking the Brand and Nature Needs More