Michael Lorentz

To trade or not to trade..

292 posts in this topic

I feel the message of the above post is quite clear:

 

Keeping Rhino alive must be more profitable for all parties involved than killing them.

 

How that is to be achieved is not quite so easy to figure out, because criminals will not be able to or prepared to invest the capital necessary to become farmers, but I do believe that it is fairly obvious that none of this will happen without legal trade.

 

I also believe that the current custodians of the Rhinos cannot possibly reduce the market demand for horn enough or soon enough to save the rhino, thus to my mind the only way to save them is to allow carefully controlled trade and use the revenue from that to protect the remaining animals.

 

Using the money generated to protect the "wild' populations is also not the farmer's problem or prerogative, but needs to be dealt with in the way the trading system is set up. But this is just my two cent's worth.

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@@inyathi thank you so much for explaining with such detail the situation and history of vicuña and its trade.I was very interested as the vicuña trade has been held up as an example of how trade can help.Another example is crocodile farming.My percept was that crocodile farming had little relationship with wild crocodile conservation but I would be very interested in the contrary view

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~ @@Peter Connan and @@Towlersonsafari

 

This thread is a major education for me.

Until joining Safaritalk, I was oblivious to such concerns.

The detailed post by @@inyathi concerning the vicuña trade is a case in point.

This amounts to continuing education for me, minus any pressure to pass a comprehensive examination.

The thoughts of @@Bugs, @@Sangeeta, @@Soukous raise my consciousness.

Complacency about wildlife conservation issues fades away when is an active Safaritalk member!

Tom K.

Edited by Tom Kellie
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The example of the vicuna has often been used by pro-trade people. But things might not look too good:

Safaritalk topic here and original article here.

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@@Towlersonsafari I wasn’t going to write a whole lot about crocs but since you asked.

 

Anyone who has been to the Pantanal in Brazil will very likely have seen pools stuffed full of yacare caiman the following photo shows just a small number of them.

 

gallery_6520_827_80382.jpg

 

Pools can contained many more animals than this; a spotlight shone over a pool at night will reveal so much eye shine the scene almost resembles a cityscape at night. These caiman are just everywhere yet not that many years ago yacare caiman in the Pantanal were heading very rapidly towards extinction; back in the 1980s armed gangs were roaming the Pantanal wiping out caiman. At night with a rifles and torches/spotlights caiman can be killed very easily, the dead caiman would be left until the morning the carcasses would then be collected and the valuable parts of the skin cut off and everything else left for the vultures and the piranhas. These poachers were so dangerous that even the local cowboys the Pantanieros who are pretty tough characters were quite often scared of them, although some ranchers would order their men to shoot them on sight as the poachers would quite happily kill cattle as well as caiman.

 

Brazil wages war on poachers

 

The captive breeding and farming of caiman for their skins was introduced in order to try and bring an end to this poaching, tough law enforcement on its own was not working. The evidence that this has worked can be seen in the pools of the Pantanal. The massive poaching of spectacled and yacare caimans really only began in the 70s and hit the Pantanal in the 80s because more valuable species like the Orinoco crocodile and the Central American Morelet’s crocodile and other crocodile species in other parts of the world had already been all but wiped out in the preceding decades. No one had bothered with these caimans before because only a small part of the skin can actually be used, only the belly skin of crocodilians has any real value and all caimans produce bony deposits known as osteoderms in their belly scales making much of the skin unusable, salt water crocodiles on the other hand never produce osteoderms in their belly scales as a result their skins are highly prized.

 

When it comes to farming of crocodylians technically there is ranching and then there is farming. The former system involves collecting the eggs from wild nests incubating them and raising the hatchlings until they reach the appropriate size for slaughter, new eggs are then collected from the wild to replace the slaughtered animals. With the latter system farming once a captive population has been established on the farm from eggs collected from the wild a proportion of the animals are kept for breeding eventually ensuring that it is no longer necessary to collect eggs from the wild. If breeding adult crocodiles were removed from the wild this would have a detrimental effect on the population this is why for ranching eggs are collected, in the wild only a small percentage of hatchlings ever reach adulthood most of them are eaten by storks, herons and other birds or by larger crocs/gators/caiman. By law a portion of the hatchlings around about 10% have to be returned to the wild thus in theory the wild population doesn’t suffer, the percentage of hatchlings that would naturally have survived go back into the wild and the percentage that would have died are raised in captivity for slaughter. Arguably if you take too many eggs you are significantly reducing the number of hatchlings in the wild and thus taking away a potentially important food source for birds whether this is a big problem or not I’m not sure. You might say the the farming system is better because once established you are no longer taking any eggs from the wild and new farms can be set up using captive bred eggs. However the ranching system which relies on collecting eggs from the wild means that you have to protect the wild population to ensure a sustainable supply of eggs, whereas with farming the wild population no longer matters, having said that in some countries farmers have to put some of their animals back into the wild certainly if they are an endangered species. The critiscism of farming crocs (as opposed to the ranching system) would therefore be that it doesn’t provide a financial incentive for local people to protect wild crocodiles and for the very dangerous species people need good reasons to want to protect them. Salties and Niles are both extremely dangerous, mugger crocs in India kill quite a few people and American aligators and also black caiman kill people. However some of the other big croc species that grow to a not disimilar size are despite their fearsome appearance really not aggressive and pose very little danger to people, unfortunately many people aren’t aware of this and kill these crocs out of fear and ignorance.

 

As far as I am aware there isn’t really any significant poaching of crocodilians for their skins anymore poaching is though still a problem in some areas for example in Jamaica poaching of American crocodiles is a serious conservation issue but this is for meat rather than skins. There is also a problem in Egypt, when the Aswan Dam was built this brought about the final extinction of Nile crocodiles from the Upper Nile in the past they were found right up to the delta on the Med, now only a small population exists in Lake Nasser behind the dam and these crocs are subjected to poaching but again this isn’t for the skin trade. Really as far as I can tell farming and ranching of crocs has effectively ended the black market at least for skins.

 

While the yacare caiman have recovered their numbers extremely well in the Pantanal other species have still not recovered from the days of completely uncontrolled hunting like the Siamese crocodile Crocodylus siamensis which is critically endangered there may be according to Fauna and Flora International as few as 250 breeding adults left in the wild and one of the reasons for this was over collection of these crocodiles to stock farms. In an effort to save the species wild populations are now having to be reinforced with captive bred animals from farms, because these populations are so small that their breeding success has been seriously compromised. However many of the crocodiles on farms in Asia are actually Siamese x saltwater hybrids so finding purebred animals has proved a bit of a challenge. Crocodile farming helped bring the Siamese crocodile to the brink of extinction and is now helping to save it thanks to the intervention of FFI amongst others.

 

The Siamese crocodile example does also illustrate one problem with farming and that is the hybridisation of different species, Siamese crocs are crossed with salties because the hybrids grow much faster. In the past when both species were still abundant in the wild in South East Asia the two would have occasionally hybridised in the wild in coastal regions where their ranges overlapped, however given how rare the Siamese now is extreme care should be taken to ensure that these hybrids cannot escape into the wild at least not anywhere near where there are still wild Siamese crocs. Unfortunately crocs do escape from farms which raises another issue because some species are kept outside their original native range, Morelets crocodiles for example are farmed in Mexico in parts of the country where the species does not naturally occur escapes have happened allowing feral populations to become established threatening American crocodiles through both hybridisation and competition. In a dangerous irresponsible move that could have been taken from the plot of a bad Hollywood horror movie back in 1991 110 hatchling Nile crocs were sent from Zimbabwe to Brazil where they were taken to a high security farm. Both locals and environmental groups went to court to try and get this stopped but to no avail and the judge ruled in favour of the farm, other countries also raised objections and various South American countries wisely have laws specifically prohibiting the importation of Nile crocodiles. You might have thought after the accidental introduction of African honey bees the Brazillians would have learned their lesson and not risked the possibility of having to contend with ‘African killer crocodiles’ the threat to the ecology of South America and the obvious threat to people’s lives given how dangerous these crocs are at home in Africa doesn’t bear thinking about quite what has happened to these crocs I don’t know as I haven’t found an up date on the story.

 

I think one can genuinely say that crocodile farming/ranching has succeeded in dealing with the black market in the way that the vicuña trade has not, however crocodiles of various species are still hunted and I’m sure there is still some trade in skins. I think probably the important factor is that farms/ranches can guarantee much better quality skins than it is possible to obtain from the wild and the leather industry only want the highest quality skins, the farms can meet the demand and of course legitimate businesses would not want to be buying illegal skins in any case. The fact that some species have never recovered their numbers is not purely down to ongoing hunting but also due to habitat destruction, probably the rarest species in the world is the Chinese aligator Aligator sinensis and the biggest threat to these gators is the destruction of their habitat.

 

For anyone not familiar with all of the various species of crocs here’s a list and if you click each one you can read about their conservation status.

 

Crocodilian species

 

Legalising controlled trade in the skins of certain crocdilians and encouraging people to start farming/ranching the animals was done very much as a conservation measure, some of the people in this business are doubtless committed to the conservation of crocodilians and doubtless a good many others are purely in it to make a living (that's not to say they don't care at all about the survival of crocodiles just that that is not why they chose to farm them) but that’s not a bad thing unless you disaprove farming/ranching animals.

Edited by inyathi
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Further to what I said about vicuñas, I’m not sure if this article has been posted before but the following article explains why the vicuña example shows that legalisation won’t save rhinos.

 

Legalizing Rhino Horn Trade Won't Save Species, Ecologist Argues

 

Importantly, the trade in wool wouldn't reopen until after vicuñas had recovered in the wild. That didn't happen at the same pace in each of the vicuña range countries, or even within each country, with some populations remaining in jeopardy.

 

This is something that's happening for rhinos and elephants and other wildlife in Africa and presents a major challenge to "sustainable use"—that is, you can't guarantee that by starting a program of trade in a place where the animal is in abundance, you won't drive the animal to extinction through illegal use where they're still in danger.

 

While the vicuña populations in northern Chile are currently out of danger of extinction, the populations in the south are not.

 

 

This is the fundamental point that pro-traders @@Bugs have not satisfactorily addressed and is basically much the same point I was making earlier, legalisation must not seriously jeopardise the survival of East African black rhinos in Tanzania or lesser one-horned rhinos in Nepal. If my fears are unfounded and these rhinos really will be better off once the trade is legalised then explain to me how? Convince me that these rhinos will be genuinely safer once horn can be sold legally internationally and I will change my view entirely.

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Thanks, @@Bugs, for your measured response.

 

I honestly have no problem with people making money - good for them, etc. But it seems that either I have been unable to express my concerns or the pro-trade side does not wish to address my concerns.

 

As Rob explained so carefully in one of his posts above, the southern black & white rhino are not the only species of extant rhino. Since rhino horn consumers don't differentiate between one horned and two horned rhino, southern & northern rhino, black & white etc. what may lead to a good situation for your captive bred and farmed rhino in SA will almost certainly lead to a bad situation for wild rhino living in countries that don't have the same economic resources to protect their animals that rhino farmers have in SA.

 

I derive 2 things from rhino farmers & pro-traders in SA based on what they say and what they don't say:

 

1) that they have been very successful in increasing their captive rhino populations;

2) that it is neither their duty nor responsibility to help protect wild rhino in other countries from the profits generated by their farmed products in SA.

 

Peter above is one of the very few people I have read here who has actually flat out said that rhino farmers in SA are not liable to contribute towards the protection of wild rhinos elsewhere unless such a thing is written into some section of a trade agreement.

 

But if it is SA policy & lobbying & laws that will almost certainly determine the fate of rhinos in other countries (and this is the belief of the anti-trade people), then surely you must agree that these SA farmers are morally and ethically obliged to help species that may be wiped out completely as a result of their trade policies?

 

Or are your side saying that no, legalized trade in horn will actually decrease the risk to wild populations in Nepal & India, for example? On what basis can you say that? Please note that the economic models that make so much sense in a SA context are meaningless in other countries with entirely different sets of contexts.

 

Even though I don't wish to be cynical about this, it seems to me that SA rhino farmers will be very well pleased indeed to see the extinction of wild rhinos in other rhino range states as this is precisely what will give them complete monopoly over a very lucrative market. Perhaps that is why they are so silent on this point?

 

If this were not the case, and they were genuinely concerned about the fate of ALL rhino, and not just their breeding stock, then they would surely give at least some thought as to how their lobbying will affect these other species of rhino?

 

Which brings me to your other point - yes, this is clearly an economic decision from a sector of the economy that functions on the trade of wildlife and wildlife parts. If that is what SA wishes to do,, then it is SA's prerogative and we can't stop it. But:

 

1) some of us do not consider this to be conservation. Rather, we consider this to be cash crop farming (which is fine too - just don't want pro-traders to call an apple an orange);

 

2) when SA's actions have a direct impact on the fragile rhino populations of other countries, we also call this market manipulation, and feel that is incumbent on us to point out that in reality, SA is only looking to establish a market monopoly for its own product, and that SA's policies will likely lead to the extinction of all rhino save those that it farms.

 

I believe that if there really are conservationists among this group of farmers, they would be looking out for the welfare of more than just their own cash cows. If such is the case, I would be glad to hear from them/about them, but as long as the welfare of wild rhino in other countries generates no response from the pro-traders, some of us will continue to oppose legalization.

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@@inyathi - you are an encyclopedia :D

 

Thank you for the many lessons you provide us here! They are ALWAYS enlightening, regardless of where I may come down on the issues.

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Communities can benefit from legal trade

 

Communities in South Africa can benefit from the implementation of legalised trade in rhino horn. So says Mr Michael Murphree, a researcher at the African Centre for Disaster Studies on the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University (NWU).

“Legalised trade in rhino horn will not only significantly improve these communities’ quality of life, but will also lessen the pressure on the government to combat illegal poaching,” says Michael.

Michael is of the opinion that the South African government’s view point of establishing limited trade in white rhino horn is a huge economic opportunity. “When a rhino is dehorned in a responsible manner, it grows back to its original length within two years.”

“Currently South Africa has approximately 75% of the world’s rhino population – just more than 24 000 rhinos. One rhino can generate millions of Rands’ income if taken into account that these animals’ life expectancy is between 35 and 50 years. In order to save the rhino we need to be resourceful and creative rather than sticking to old approaches such as blanket trade bans that have clearly failed to protect the rhino.”

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Importantly, the trade in wool wouldn't reopen until after vicuñas had recovered in the wild

Now that doesn't make sense. The reason you are trading in wool is to reduce poaching, and to reopen it later doesnt make sense.

Edited by Bugs

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Meats such as beef, lamb, mutton, pork, even game meats are legally available in shops around the world, there is a thriving legal market for meat. However, the existence of the legal market does not stop bush meat poachers from poaching and selling their poached meats on the illegal black market. Some bush meat poachers poach for their own consumption, but most poach to sell the illegal meat.

Does bush meat poaching harm the legal commercial meat industry? No.

Will rhino poaching outside South Africa harm the South African legal rhino horn industry? Probably not.

But bush meat poaching harms wild populations of game and rhino poaching will still devastate wild rhino populations. Changing the legal status of horn from privately owned rhino, IMHO will do nothing to protect wild rhino populations anywhere in Africa or Asia.

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@@inyathi thank you so much for your masterful summary of the croc situation. The £64000 question is are there any lessons to be learned from croc farming/ranching that can be applied to rhino horn? Is the individual price of crocs so low that coupled with the quality issue you mention it makes croc poaching a much less lucrative option? Sorry to bombard you with questions!

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Another article on Mongabay about vicuña wool legalized trade.

It is said legalizing stimulated the trade and led to poaching.

 

http://news.mongabay.com/2015/11/poaching-upsurge-threatens-south-americas-iconic-vicuna/

 

 

I find this quite funny - the Vicuna populations grew from 6 000 to 360 000 during a period where the wool was traded without having to kill the animals. They wouldn't have 360 000 Vicuna's if they didn't do that. Its a bit like the argument I heard the other day about the water shortage in SA - that the dams were built too big - thats why they are taking too long to fill up.

 

 

Well, I have no opinion about the vicuña wool trade. I always thought the vicuña was saved through trading its wool, but this specialist who is a reference in Chile, states that the population started to increase a long time before trade was legalized. I guess this is correct.

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Posted (edited)

 

 

 

Importantly, the trade in wool wouldn't reopen until after vicuñas had recovered in the wild

Now that doesn't make sense. The reason you are trading in wool is to reduce poaching, and to reopen it later doesnt make sense.

 

 

@@Bugs Whether it makes sense to you or not that is what happened.

 

The downfall of the vicuña started with the Spanish Conquest the estimated population in 1500 is put at 2 million by 1967 the population was just 10,000 in Peru in 1968 7,500 were counted back in 1957 there were thought to be 250,000 in Peru. Even at various times during Peru’s colonial history people realised that vicuñas were seriously declining and should be protected, in the 20th century various laws were introduced on paper but they were never properly enforced and did not have the desired effect. It wasn't until Peru established the Pampa Galeras Reserve in 1967 that they really started to take the matter seriously and introduced stronger laws and for the first time actually enforced them properly. This was really the first time in 435 years that serious steps were actually taken to protect the vicuña and save the species from extinction. In 1979 Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador came together and signed the Convention on the Conservation and Management of the vicuña recognising the economic importance of the vicuña and supporting the concept of sustainable use, however it was until 1993 that the main populations in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina’s were high enough for CITES to agree to take these populations off Appendix I and place them on Appendix II allowing international trade to start, this finally happened in 1994.

 

The start of the trade in vicuña fibre in 1994 didn't come until 27 years after Peru first started to properly protect vicuñas and 15 years after the convention was signed, in 1994 Peru's vicuña population was put at 66,559.

 

I stated that vicuñas were introduced to Ecuador but in fact theses animals were native to Ecuador but they likely died out at the time of or shortly after the Conquest, Peru, Chile and Bolivia donated vicuñas to Ecuador starting in 1988 these animals were released into the Chimborazo Faunal Reserve on the slopes of the volcano Mt Chimborazo. As this newly established population was very small Ecuador’s vicuñas were still listed on Appendix I by CITES until 2013 only then was the population high enough that the Ecuadorean government at the CITES conference in Bangkok was able to get the Chimborazo vicuñas listed on Appendix II thus allowing Ecuador to join the trade in vicuña fibre.

 

So quite apart from anything else the vicuña range states could not start trading until CITES moved some of their vicuña populations on to Appendix II.

 

Aside from having to obtain agreement from CITES it does in my view make sense.

 

They could not have known for certain what effect legalisation would have on poaching and the black market had they jumped in too early with legalisation when the populations were still very small any increase in poaching could have been disastrous.

 

Domestic farm animals including alpacas are in close contact with people on a regular basis vicuñas are entirely wild they’re not used to being handled by people they’re not really even habituated at all, they can easily be injured during the round up and they are very easily stressed and the process of handling and shearing them is hardly unstressful. Shearing wild vicuñas had not been done for over 400 years, when the Chaccu festivals were revived people couldn’t really know exactly how things had been done by the Incas and how to handle the animals to cause the minimum stress. Legal trade in vicuña fibre has not go rid of the black market even if it was thought that it might eventually do so it was obvious that poaching would not stop overnight, small isolated populations of perhaps only around a hundred or fewer animals would still be extremely vulnerable to being wiped out by poachers. The priority was to protect these populations and allow their numbers to recover; rounding up small herds like these for shearing would have posed an unacceptable risk to that recovery. In the early days when no one really had any experience of handling vicuñas causing injuries or excessive stress could have easily had an impact on their breeding success and therefore their recovery. There would also surely be no point in opening a legal trade until the population had increased enough to supply a sufficient quantity of fibre, otherwise by creating interest in vicuña fibre and clothing you risk increasing the demand for fibre without having the means to supply it legally.

 

The following is from a thesis entitled Peasant Communities, the First Link of the Commodity Chain of Vicuna Fiber

 

On the other hand, the vicuña fiber presents certain weaknesses as a commodity within the textile and fashion industry:

  • Vicuña, the animal, is still a threatened species and is under supervision of CITES and the States. Therefore steps for commercialization are very slow and controlled.
  • The current population of vicuña is not capable of satisfying a larger international demand for its fiber. Moreover, the slow pace of reproduction and poaching make it slow to enlarge the population. A certain period must pass in order to increase vicuña population and obtain increased production that responds to a larger demand (Interview with CONACS*, 4/12/07 Lima, Peru).
  • The scarcity of the product could not motivate some brand-name companies to buy the product, because it could not satisfy their demand.
  • The quality of vicuña fiber is not as good as years ago, It is getting thicker over time (Interview with SNV⁺, 4/19/07 Lima, Peru).
  • Peasant communities are poor and most of the time: they do not have the correct tools to maintain the vicuña environment, shear vicuñas, and clean the fleeces.

 

 

* National Counsel of South American Camelids.

⁺National Vicuña Society

 

 

The social aspect includes the way the peasants and their communities are organized. Every single community develops their own production and commercialization systems. They are organized according to their potentialities; thus, some systems are more effective and efficient. A few communities have a successful system to their annual campaign (capture and shearing vicuñas). These communities are those that have a large quantity of vicuñas. Indeed, more vicuñas brings more profit into the community. Therefore, these communities are able to acquire more resources for continuing to do business. However, small communities with few vicuñas are unable to continue and persist in the business because they do not receive enough profit to reinvest. Therefore, the possibility of growth is not given similarly to all communities.

 

 

 

Despite all the benefits that peasant communities have received through this natural resource; there are some problems in the actual legislation that are causing delays in the peasant communities’ growth and are keeping peasants in poverty. These problems include the difficulty of following the requirements by peasants and the gaps open to misinterpretation. Some of the legislation is not very explicit, nor realistic, nor protective to peasants. For instance, poachers, some intermediaries, and some businesses take advantage of peasant communities without being punished. The State has not developed legislation for economic protection to peasant communities and so peasant communities work with unfair contracts and agreements. As a result, peasant communities are exploited and gain a small part of the profit while buyers companies always gain the majority of the profit. Moreover, the lack of accountability programs in the communities and in the CCUSCSS organization (by the General Assembly) caused corruption and embezzlement of community funds. Therefore, the profit from vicuña fiber is not reflected in the communities. After shearing, the selling of the fiber is the responsibility of the peasant communities as a private business. The State is responsible for vicuña as a species. Thus, the intervention of the State and the development of an accountability program are not developed yet. For instance, peasant communities have the right to avoid inspections or supervision from the State (in the reinvestment of the income). Establishing an accountability program developed by the State will need a large investment.

 

 

One of the obstacles in vicuña fiber production is the small population of this wild threatened species; the majority of peasant communities have an average of 50 vicuñas and they can shear approximately 30 of them. This quantity of vicuña fiber does not provide wealth to their members. In addition, the caring for the vicuña and its environment (such as maintaining the pasture) is a high investment for peasant communities since most communities do not obtain a high profit for the sale of vicuña fiber. Moreover, it is impossible that peasants breed vicuña in order to increase their fiber production because of the species’ wildness.

 

 

 

Legalising the trade as well as helping to save the vicuña was supposed to lift Andean peasant farmers out of poverty, broadly speaking despite the significant increase in poaching it has at least following the rigourous protection of vicuñas largely achieved the former aim, though that could change if poaching continues to rise as for the latter aim it can only be said to have been a failure.

Edited by inyathi
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You are a real Bible @inyathi!

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