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The Conservation Imperative


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#1 Bugs

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 12:41 PM

Since my retirement, I made a promise that I would pursue a worthwhile conservation cause. It may have taken two years and an interesting ride, but I have found a group with of like minded conservationists who are on to something.

 

It is clear to me that wildlife needs to have a value, and they people need to be able to see that value through one means or another. I have always supported sustainable use of wildlife as an option for conservation and am worried that so many NGO's and NOP's are rejecting that practice based on fundamental moral ideology. I have seen first hand the success of these pragmatic conservation principles and the failure of people to recognise this. To make conservation successful - people need to buy into the concept, - particularly when you are dealing with communities who would otherwise see wildlife as a pest. 

 

I will use this thread to tell you a little about our group and our focus. 

 

Our Facebook page is https://www.facebook...ationimperative

 

and web page - is still under construction -- http://theconservationimperative.com

 

We produced a film with the help of Osprey Filming company and with Dave Cook as director to promote the lifting of the trade ban on rhino horn. Here is a part of that documentary. 

 

https://www.youtube....eature=youtu.be


Edited by Bugs, 06 March 2015 - 02:07 PM.

There's none so blind as those who will not see.


#2 Bugs

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 12:44 PM

Here is an interview with Professor Brian Child. He speaks about the importance of wildlife having value. 

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=2QiKRWBD3Ds


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#3 Bugs

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 12:45 PM

Part 2... Professor Brian Child talks about his experience in Zambia and how wildlife management became commercial. 

 

 

https://www.youtube....eature=youtu.be


Edited by Bugs, 06 March 2015 - 01:57 PM.

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#4 Bugs

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 12:47 PM

and an interview with Michael Norton-Griffiths where he talks about the decline in Kenya's wildlife and the reasons for it. He makes interesting comparison between South Africa and Kenya.

 

 

https://www.youtube....eature=youtu.be


Edited by Bugs, 06 March 2015 - 01:59 PM.

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#5 Bugs

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Posted 06 March 2015 - 02:02 PM

What do wildlife managers of the Laikipia district in Kenya think of the fact that although they are tasked with looking after wildlife they are prohibited from benefitting from the resource?

 

https://www.youtube....eature=youtu.be


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#6 pault

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 06:25 AM

Congratulations on getting down to doing what you promised yourself you would do. 

 

I am not sure a focus on legalisation of rhino horn trade will bring you very much support or success converting "those who will not see" (as you put it) as it is super-controversial and definitely theoretical.Wouldn't it be better pushing more real success stories out there to begin with unless you want to attract the already converted in the conservation area?

 

Of course I may be jumping to conclusions due to my fundamental(ist?) doubts about your cause. You may mean to attract other groups via this route and maybe that is better for your cause anyway.


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#7 Bugs

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Posted 10 March 2015 - 03:15 PM

@pault time is running out for the rhinos. If we don't find a workable solution to present to CITES at this conference of the parties - we will simply be party to watching their demise. 

 

There is a very strong argument for lifting the trade ban, and I don't believe it will be detrimental to the future of the rhino at all. Lifting the ban may be a theory as you say it, but the current situation is a fact. How long do you want to stare at statistics for before you decide to try something different? 

 

I cannot stand back and watch the next four years of worsening statistics without doing what I believe in. Apart from the late Dr. Ian Player, there are many highly respected conservationists and economists who are working to lift the trade ban. In time, I will post more interviews. 


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#8 Bugs

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Posted 28 May 2015 - 07:02 PM

Time to add another video. It seems the debate about whether or not to legalise the trade in rhino horn is hotting up. Dr John Hanks has been my mentor for a number of years. His experience and knowledge is unquestionable. Here is an interview where he explains his stance on the trade issue. 

 

https://www.youtube....HA&spfreload=10


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#9 egilio

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 12:50 AM

Well done for following your dreams! I agree with a lot of your points.

However, I don't believe in legalizing of rhino horn trade. The vast majority of rhinos roams on state lands and are state owned, even if trade is legalized, the horns from rhinos in national parks can't be harvested (or if you do it would decrease calf survival), and government won't allocate enough resources to protect a source they can't monetize. Since the demand is so huge, and the supply so little, the price will remain high, thus the incentive to poach rhinos will stay high. Privately owned rhinos will receive proper protection, but the (current) majority of rhinos won't.



#10 Bugs

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 05:25 AM

Well done for following your dreams! I agree with a lot of your points.

However, I don't believe in legalizing of rhino horn trade. The vast majority of rhinos roams on state lands and are state owned, even if trade is legalized, the horns from rhinos in national parks can't be harvested (or if you do it would decrease calf survival), and government won't allocate enough resources to protect a source they can't monetize. Since the demand is so huge, and the supply so little, the price will remain high, thus the incentive to poach rhinos will stay high. Privately owned rhinos will receive proper protection, but the (current) majority of rhinos won't.

 

Eglio - they don't have to harvest horns from state owned rhinos. Between the private sector, stockpiles and natural deaths we are able to supply more horn than is currently being lost to poachers. The economists working on a trade model are working on ways to ensure its totally transparent and that percentages go to protect rhinos in national parks. Also remember that Intensive protection zones IPZ's are already set up where rhino are being moved to for better safety - the areas are secret and rhinos horns will be removed to reduce risk of poaching - these are state rhino. 

 

Also take a look at Zimbabwe and you will see that today most rhino are now under private curatorship - this, all under the trade ban. This is the same progression we will see in SA should we not lift the ban. 

 

What everyone is not realising is that there is a trade in rhino horn - like it or not. It relies on killing the animal and all benefits go to the criminals, and rhino keepers are left with the bill. What is abundantly clear is that you cannot switch the trade off, and in order to wrestle control away from the criminals you have to provide a legal conduit and an incentive for people to be legal. 

 

I will add that the statistics show only failure - how long do we have to stand and watch our once rescued specie being brutally slaughtered back to extinction. 


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#11 Bugs

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 05:27 AM

For those who haven't seen our 15 minute presentation please take time to view the shortened version of the 90 minute film.. 

 

http://theconservati...ative.com/?p=49


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#12 douglaswise

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 07:41 AM

@ Bugs:

 

I am philosophically sympathetic to your position.  However, success will heavily depend upon the accuracy of your statement that "between the private sector, stockpiles and natural deaths we are able to supply more than is being lost to poachers". One should also add that demand shouldn't rise as more stock becomes available.

 

There may be some hope because, elsewhere, we have been informed that horn reaching Vietnam is no longer primarily used for traditional medical products and instead is sold to rich Chinese as jewellery.  If the medical use is actually shrinking - as opposed to merely forming a smaller proportion of a growing trade, you could be on to a winner.

 

I noted that you were critical of the alternative synthetic horn approach to address poaching.  If successful, this would obviously impact to the economic detriment of the private horn producers.  Does this explain your hostility?  Alternatively, you might have thought that synthetic horn would never achieve the standard of being indistinguishable from the real thing and would thus fail, having sucked in and wasted funds from donors who might otherwise have spent on a more practical conservation approach.  Finally, you might take the view that game ranching and rhino horn production is good for Africa and for wildlife conservation over and above the poaching issue.    



#13 Bugs

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 01:08 PM

@ Bugs:

 

One should also add that demand shouldn't rise as more stock becomes available.

.    

Thanks for making this point and allowing me to respond.

 

This point I hear again and again. There is remains a theory and in my opinion a fear tactic from the Anti-trade campaigners. I remain convinced that the biggest real fear that the anti-trade advocates have is that a trade model will succeed. 

 

As I have said above - There is a trade in rhino horn already! They control the demand and supply and demand to the point where they are even speculating (holding onto stock in the hope that the market goes up). They have their own marketing and supply chain. They have no competition. And worst of all - they are killing the rhino and are making all the money. How will a legitimate trade increase demand - if illegal trade hasn't done so already? 

 

Rhino keepers are expected to foot the bill for keeping rhino with zero help from CITES (who wrote the rules in the first place) and other people. Private owners and national parks spend vast amounts on protection and despite this the poachers have the upper hand. Our group has access to a number of scarce resource economists - most notably Michael Eustace who has worked tirelessly and unselfishly towards trade model that will work. Michael Eustace's expertise is not limited to economics, but has huge interest in conservation - being a founder member of African Parks. http://www.african-parks.org

 

The current situation leaves the rhino worth more dead than alive. By a country mile. And until that situation is reversed - I see no reprieve from the poaching onslaught. And rhino will go extinct as it has in so many other African Countries. 

 

Also remember that a trade model is not separate from the interventions we are currently busy with - all existing efforts should continue and even be reinforced. 


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#14 Bugs

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 01:15 PM

@ Bugs:

 

 

I noted that you were critical of the alternative synthetic horn approach to address poaching.  If successful, this would obviously impact to the economic detriment of the private horn producers.  Does this explain your hostility?  

 

Absolutely not. It would be great if it did work. I just think we are scraping the bottom of the barrel for solutions (other than legitimate trade). 

 

But a synthetic horn appeals to a completely different market, and shouldn't have the slightest impact on the genuine market. As is the case with Rolex - also note - there are a number of alternatives available already - most notably Aspirin and Cow horn to deal with fevers, and a multitude of other substances which can be carved into whatever you want to look a whole lot more spectacular than rhino horn. 


Edited by Bugs, 29 May 2015 - 01:29 PM.

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#15 Sangeeta

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 01:57 PM

@Bugs - I know we've discussed this elsewhere also, but what then happens to the rhinos that are not in private custody? Or are you saying that poachers will have no need to poach because there will be an adequate supply of horn always on the market? Could that not then impact the market on the downside? By that, I mean if you theoretically set the price of farmed horn at x per kilo (similar to your diamond/oil cartel model), could not the poachers sell poached 'wild' horn for more and perhaps drive down the price for 'domestic' horn to much lower levels, thereby upsetting the cartel principle? I say this because unlike a government that can cordon off a whole diamond producing area (as Namibia) or private owners that can set very rigorous inspections for miners leaving the mines etc., it would likely be physically and financially impossible for African governments to provide that level of protection to their parks.

I know that you have said time and again that we need to try something else because the old model is not working (rhinos are getting poached in national parks anyway), but the other big fear for anti-traders is that by legitimizing the use of horn, there will be no way to distinguish illegal wild horn from domestic horn, thereby further worsening the situation for rhinos, until eventually, there are no wild rhinos left at all, and instead just a farm commodity under private ownership.

Have pro-traders ever considered sharing the cost of wild rhino protection with their profit from the legit sale of horn? That may help change some minds and move people from their hardened positions. I also think that Rhino charities should be donating 90+ percent of their fundraising revenues to proven organizations like AP etc for their rhino conservation efforts in the wild.

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#16 Bugs

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 02:26 PM

The incentives to poach will be less - the price for poached horn will be less - because of the risk factor.

And the legal trade will police the illegal trade more efficiently - being the fact that the people trading legally will have an incentive to stay legal and thus report illegal activity as it will be in competition to them. This should reduce all poaching in private and public reserves alike. 

 

If the illegal trade were a water tap and the demand were people who needed to drink, and you switched the tap off - what would happen. We need a legitimate trade to replace the existing trade - thats all. It can be done and it can be transparent and it can be regulated and I share the opinion of many credible and experienced specialists who believe it will work. Things are getting worse and out of control - a regulated trade will take control away from the poachers, it will benefit communities who are recruitment grounds as poachers, it will satisfy the demand without killing a single animal, and it will reduce poaching, and it will create an incentive to protect the rhinos and as a result other animals will benefit. 

 

http://theconservati...ative.com/?p=28

 

I can't see what the anti-traders are so afraid of we all want to save the rhinos, but they would rather the rhino go extinct than agreeing to trade. They have offered no solution that encourages communities to become custodians rather than poachers, they have offered no solution to the 25% of the rhinos in private hands and the solution they are offering is failing in government reserves, and in other range states who have rhino. Their only solution worth any salt is moving rhino to Texas and to Australia or to IPZ's, but that can only be regarded as hedging their bets.  

 

There is one thing for sure - the current situation is not sustainable. Not for private owners and government rhinos or rhinos is any other range states. The bubble will burst and it is probably the first to go will be the private rhinos - like the canary in the cola mine and then there will be a total collapse. 


Edited by Bugs, 29 May 2015 - 03:19 PM.

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#17 Soukous

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 05:33 PM

My 2 cents worth - 2 things that strike me as idiotic about the way the whole SAVE THE RHINO campaign is being waged.

 

1>

I know it has been said before and it will be said many times again but the fact that something is declared illegal does not prevent it from happening. Nor is making something illegal a way to tackle the demand.

As long as the demand exists, all that is achieved by making something illegal is that people go outside the law to satisfy their demand.

 

Just look at prohibition in the USA. What a total disaster. Not only did it not succeed in preventing people consuming alcohol, it created an opportunity for criminals to build empires that then soaked up staggering amounts of money in law enforcement costs.

Do any of us think that prohibition made sense or that those people who still enjoyed a drink were criminals? No, the prevailing thought now is that whole premise behind prohibition was ill conceived and doomed to failure because it focussed on supply and did nothing to reduce demand. 

 

Is the trade in rhino horn really any different in principle? 

We cannot stop the demand, so we try and outlaw the supply. But the demand is still there and all we are doing is creating an opportunity for criminals.

 

2>

Surely, if the goal here is to SAVE THE RHINO then we should have a strategy that embraces all those engaged on the same side in this battle. That should include private rhino breeders/farmers. They have a huge stake in this battle.

Yet, they are all too readily dismissed by the anti trade people as being 'in it just for the money'. 

I do not know any of these breeders/farmers personally so I cannot really comment on whether they should be called conservationists or whether they are businessmen who have invested vast amount of money in a gamble that legalisation will come. But, as I said a moment ago, if they are engaged in the same battle to save the rhino does that matter? 

 

It seems to me that the attitude of some anti trade people is so entrenched that they would rather see the rhino become extinct than join forces with people who have demonstrated success at increasing the rhino population. 

It is not a matter of principle, it is just pig-headed.


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#18 egilio

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Posted 29 May 2015 - 07:51 PM

The same rhetoric keeps getting repeated, so I repeat myself again too, until this argument is countered.

 

Even if the trade is made legal, the price of rhino horn will remain high as the demand will not drop (more likely it will even increase) and the supply will not increase (maybe momentarily by the release of stockpiles, but those are one-off sales, only leading to an increase in demand, like what happened with ivory), thus the price will remain high, thus the incentive for poaching will remain high.

Without adjusting penalties for poachers, increasing risk for poachers, and a continued high price for rhino horn poaching levels will likely not decrease, especially not on public lands where most rhinos roam.

 

Legal buyers will possibly be part of the illegal trade too. If someone offers them illegal rhino horn they have a strong negotiating point with the person who offers, driving the price for which they buy that horn down, but they can sell it for a similar price as legal horn, thus increasing their profits. 


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#19 Bugs

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Posted 30 May 2015 - 06:09 AM

In the case of diamonds - much noise is made about a parallel illicit trade. We asked Gary Ralfe from de Beers what they estimate the illicit trade was worth and he said it was less than 1% of the entire diamond market. De Beers have achieved what they did because the control more than 50% of the supply and have thus been able to control demand by the price. It may sound pretty simple economics - but I can assure you that a multi-billion dollar industry does not function on simple economics, it works because it works. 

 

An illicit trade will always be at a fraction of the genuine trade. In the case of Be Beers - should any registered trader be found to being involved in an parallel illegal trade he will forfeit certain benefits - in the case of rhino horn - he will be liable for prosecution. 

 

Reference to the ivory once off sale keeps surfacing - and we all agree that this once off "auction" to two buyers every 10 years is a great example of how things should not be done. All that happened is that the two buyers colluded and bought the ivory at a low price - they then controlled the market by drip feeding supply at vastly inflated prices. However - there is no evidence that linked the sale to an increase in poaching that we see today. 

 

Back to the point where a parallel trade will have to exist at a fraction on the price of a legal one - wouldn't you say that immediately that would reduce incentive to poachers by half? One should also remember that the consumer and indeed Chinese people would happily embrace a legitimate route of acquiring horn as opposed to being party to the bad publicity that is about at the moment. So they will have an incentive to use legally acquired horn - all of which have a genetic DNA blueprint. If you see Rhodis - they have already got DNA material from a vast number of rhinos and are able to track the horn from source to destination. In the event that a trader is caught with horn from a dubious supply - DNA tests will be able to prove conclusively where the horn came from and will provide strong proof when it comes to prosecution. It is far easier to be legal, and there is an incentive to do so.  


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#20 douglaswise

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Posted 30 May 2015 - 08:11 AM

@Bugs:

 

Thank you for replying to some of my queries.  I wonder if you could provide some idea of the magnitude of the rhino horn trade?  I would guess that it would be technically possible to farm as many rhinos as necessary to meet current demand or even a doubling or trebling of current demand.  As one who has a lot of experience in farm animal management, I would also think that the exercise should be very profitable even if horn value fell by half.  Clearly, profitability would fall once supply reached or started to exceed demand.

 

If my guesses and assumptions are correct, there would appear to be very strong reasons to support your position. @egilio has mentioned the disappearance of one-off stockpiles as a potential downside to the proposal you are forwarding.  I think it may be necessary to have built up one or two years demand-worth of stockpiles and a strong ongoing breeding programme before legalising the trade.  This might require bank loans or, better, grants from conservation donors which could be returned subsequently and ploughed into other conservation programmes. 

 

Rhino horn and elephant ivory poaching should not be addressed in the same way because of the relative values of the two products. It is potentally much easier to control the former because farming (and possibly synthetic horn) offers a financially viable solution for rhinos which is unavailable for elephants.







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