Terrorism or Trophies: #CeciltheLion

Cecil The Lion

Last Summer there was worldwide outrage when a dentist from Minnesota killed an iconic old lion that was loved by tourists in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. When news of the lions death hit social media, the story spread like wildfire. The discovery that this lion had a name, and that his name was Cecil, would create a symbol for a movement. #CeciltheLion

On Monday, November 2, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bi-partisan H.R. 2494, the Global Anti-Poaching Act. Some animal activists and journalists were quick to affix the #CeciltheLion moniker to this significant anti-poaching measure claiming it as their own.

Misleading News Headlines This Week:
House passes anti-poaching bill inspired by Cecil the lionThe Hill
Cecil The Lion Fallout: US House Passes Anti-Poaching BillInternational Business Times
Importing lion trophies to the US could be outlawed as Cecil backlash continues ~ The Guardian

Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Sponsored by Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Global Anti-Poaching Act takes aim at wildlife trafficking by international crime syndicates and terrorist organizations. Introduced May 21st of this year, the bill predates the #CeciltheLion phenomenon, and is in reality a response to the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking mandated by the Obama Administration in February 2014.

By contrast, H.R. 3526 and S. 1918the CECIL Act, are companion bills in the House and Senate that would prohibit trophy hunters from importing parts of any species, proposed or listed, as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. S. 1918 was introduced to the Senate in July, and H.R. 3526 to the House in September. They were clearly the result of the outcry over Cecils death.

Sloppy journalism has conflated the Global Anti-Poaching Act and the CECIL Act, and has caused most of the confusion over which bill does what, and for whom. That confusion has been exponentially magnified by social media, and is now viral on the internet. Meanwhile the CECIL Act has not emerged from committee in either chamber, and may never see the light of day.

Terrorism or Trophies: What’s the Difference?
The Global Anti-Poaching Act ~ Fights poachers and wildlife traffickers. No connection to the #CeciltheLion movement. Passed the House on Monday and is headed for the Senate.
The CECIL Act ~ Would stop the import of some hunting trophies into the United States. Closely associated with the #CeciltheLion movement. Stalled in committee.

The Global Anti-Poaching Act is a clear net positive for wildlife conservation world wide. Here are the main provisions in a nutshell:
1) It will expand wildlife networks and designate major wildlife trafficking countries.
2) It will withhold economic assistance to nations that are identified as weak on enforcement.
3) Seeks to professionalize wildlife rangers with training.
4) Allows the US to provide security assistance to other nations, while empowering domestic law enforcement to treat wildlife crime under federal racketeering (RICO) statutes.
5) Explicitly protects “lawful” hunting activities.

If H.R. 2494 passes the Senate, and is signed into law, the U.S. would step to the forefront of the global fight against wildlife trafficking. Designating who the bad players are (i.e. nations that are lenient on traffickers) gives the U.S. leverage to withhold future financial aid to offending countries. Further, the act gives domestic law enforcement carte blanche to treat wildlife traffickers as organized crime, much like the mafia or drug cartels. Holding these criminals accountable to federal racketeering law, combined with the threat of withholding much needed financial assistance to countries that tolerate trafficking, give the measure a powerful 1-2 punch in combatting poaching.

Terrorists, Tusks and the Ivory Crush

photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service

photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Today ivory sells on the black market for about $1500US per pound. Al-Shabab, a Somali splinter cell of al Qaida, raises $600,000 per month from poaching activities. Local African warlords and international crime syndicates fund their own violent and illegal activities through ivory poaching. Any reduction in the supply of legal ivory to growing middle class markets in China will skyrocket prices for illegal supplies, with profit margins for terrorist groups, warlords and criminals escalating correspondingly.

Recently the Obama administration announced that US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) would promulgate a rule that would ban ivory sales in the United States. Government agencies around the world have postured with high profile ivory crushes and burns from China to the United States and Kenya. Even Prince William wants to crush the Royal ivory collection in the UK. This week the Administrations’ Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking will meet to discuss their strategy to enact  a rule ending legal trade in the US. But will destroying stockpiles of ivory and criminalizing legal trade really stop ivory poaching in Africa? There is no evidence to support that belief.

“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” ~Thomas Sowell

While seemingly noble, these measures are largely symbolic and are likely to drive the price of ivory up by creating scarcity. Markets are driven by supply and demand. When the supply is reduced and the demand continues or increases, prices move up. Even the perception of scarcity puts upward pressure on markets. This is all Economics 101, and it applies equally to legal and illegal markets.

The face of ivory poaching in Africa

The face of ivory poaching in Africa

Propaganda in support of the ivory crush theory suggests that eliminating the world’s stock piles of ivory and criminalizing legal trade works to discourage black-market trade; that somehow legal trade provides cover for illegal trade. The opposite effect is far more likely. Without a significant decrease in the demand for ivory, scarcity, even perceived scarcity, will likely drive the price for illicit ivory to all time highs. Black-market trade will become more lucrative than ever. Criminals will be emboldened by the world’s inability to protect elephants in Africa, nor implement a workable strategy to reduce demand in ivory markets.

Instead of crushing valuable stockpiles of ivory in a grand symbolic gesture, sell the ivory in legal markets and use the money for elephant conservation. This is not about writing symbolic checks that are the fodder of photo ops and behind the scenes corruption– but about putting beans and bullets directly on the ground to be used by the rangers who need them. We should use money from legal ivory sales  for the recruitment and training of additional personnel, outfit them with the equipment they need, and deploy them to fight sophisticated poaching rings. Crushing ivory out of existence only increases it’s value on the black market.

Ivory poaching is funding international terrorism. Making it more difficult and more dangerous to kill elephants, while educating  the Chinese to the realities of ivory trade, will mitigate the flow of money from ivory to terrorist activities.

Al-Shabab makes $600,000 per month on poaching and employs child soldiers.

Al-Shabab makes $600,000 per month on poaching and employs child soldiers

Money from legal ivory sales could fund educational programs targeting the Chinese middle class.

Making legal trade illegal and turning good citizens into criminals will make it easier for FWS to make cases against Americans here at home, but it fails to address the hard work of catching poachers and real criminals that are determined to kill every living elephant.

We should utilize the groups that have the most at stake in elephant conservation. Hunting groups, gun and equipment manufacturers, and NGO’s. They all need to step up to the plate and play a larger role in preservation of the species they value. Protecting elephants as a resource that will be available for future generations should be a common goal of all of these interest groups. The focus needs to be on leveraging relationships on the ground in Africa, and empowering small specialized projects that get equipment, supplies, manpower and training where they are needed most. We should be using the legal sale of confiscated ivory to fund putting boots on the ground to undercut poaching.

Additionally, a larger effort needs to go into educating middle class ivory consumers in China. Again, NGO’s funded in part by legal sales of ivory could create a model for education– essentially an “issue campaign” to change the hearts and minds that currently have such an appetite for ivory and a steadfast superstition that tusks grow like human fingernails.

If we insist on going down the primrose path of symbolic conservation gestures that actually aggravate the situation,  while wasting what could be irreplaceable conservation dollars from ivory stockpiles, we fail. We will never address the  fundamentals of supply and demand. Our current course will make it so lucrative and easy for criminals and terrorists to continue their activities that elephant populations could be pushed to the brink.

Funding for elephant conservation is limited. Criminalizing legal trade of ivory at home is foolish, ineffective and distracts from actual conservation. We are running out of time for the usual tortured process of political posturing and the stroking of egos. We need to get resources on the ground and limit markets in short order. Elephants died for the ivory being crushed. Should their deaths be for naught? Use the money from legal sales of ivory to protect the future of elephants for generations to come. Stop the ivory crush.

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WyattP2The ivory crush and other wildlife issues are highly charged and contentious. I specialize in working with clients to employ campaign style tactics to change hearts and minds on vital issues in the wildlife sector. Please follow The Last Word for insight and analysis particular to the 21st century wildlife sector. If you would like to discuss the potential advantages of running a targeted issue campaign, and/or a comprehensive government affairs strategy, please call or email me. ~ Andrew Wyatt

African Poaching Crisis: Elephants Slaughtered for Trinkets and Terrorism

Reblogged from the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF).

“Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, Co-Chair of the ICCF, weighs in on the African poaching crisis, the alarming links to terrorism, and how the the Conservation Reform Act might lend aid.” ~Andrew Wyatt

feb8_2014-1

Editor’s note: Rob Portman, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Ohio.

(CNN) — The African elephant, one of the world’s most majestic animals, is in danger. In the early 1900s, 5 million elephants roamed the African continent. Then the ivory trade drove them to the brink of extinction, with 90% of African elephants killed for the ivory in their tusks.

In 1989, the world reacted, imposing a ban on the international trade in ivory passed by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Elephant populations stabilized. But today, driven by growing demand for ivory ornaments and carvings in Asia, particularly in China, elephant poaching has returned with a vengeance.

The largest slaughter in one year since the 1989 ban was passed happened in 2012, with up to 35,000 elephants killed. This adds up to nearly 100 a day. Tens of thousands are killed every year. Without action, the day may come when this magnificent creature is known only in history books.

Estimates say if elephants continue to be slaughtered at today’s rates, the creatures could be extinct in a decade.Not only do elephants die. The wildlife rangers who try to protect them from poachers are being killed.

The illicit trade in ivory — “white gold” — is a billion dollar industry, and because it is illegal, it tends to attract some very bad actors. It is blood ivory: Al-Shabaab, a wing of al Qaeda based in Africa that is responsible for continued instability in Somalia, is known to finance its operations through the poaching of elephants. Al-Shabaab raises an estimated $600,000 a month through the ivory trade. The Lord’s Resistance Army, another terrorist group infamous for forcing children to fight in its ranks, also engages in poaching and trafficking of elephant ivory.

 “Al-Shabaab raises an estimated $600,000 a month through the ivory trade.” ~Rob Portman

Stopping the ivory trade has become not only a matter of conservation but one of national security and international stability.

Last year, the United Nations issued a report warning that elephant poaching is the worst it has been in a decade, while ivory seizures are at their highest levels since 1989. Last summer, President Barack Obama issued an executive order recognizing that the poaching of protected species and the illicit trade in ivory has become an international crisis that the United States must take a leading role in combating.

Saving elephants and other threatened species is a cause that cuts across partisan lines and international boundaries. We all have a part to play.

It starts in our personal lives.

The ivory trade prospers because there is a demand for luxury goods fashioned from it. As consumers, we should never buy products made with ivory and should encourage others to be mindful that their purchases are not illegally sourced through trafficking. And we should continue to shine a spotlight on the problem of illegal poaching and the threat it poses to African elephants and other species.

There are actions our government can take, as well. As co-chairman of the U.S. Senate International Conservation Caucus, I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to educate members of Congress on these ongoing problems and introduce legislation that authorizes proven conservation programs and directs resources to the international effort to dismantle the machinery of illegal poaching.

The Conservation Reform Act is part of this effort. If passed, it would streamline and increase the effectiveness of our existing international conservation efforts. I am also working to reauthorize the Saving Vanishing Species Stamp, which raises funds for the protection of threatened animals and their habitat at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.

Over the years, we have watched as the actions of a few shortsighted, malicious and greedy people have nearly destroyed whole species. If we act now, we can make sure that the African elephant doesn’t become another sad entry on a long list of animals we can never bring back.

Prince Charles and Prince William Condemn Wildlife Trafficking

The anti-poaching rhetoric is really stepping up now that the cold hard reality is setting in that, Poaching Is Funding Terrorism! ~Andrew Wyatt

Science & Space

Every day, nearly 100 elephants in Africa meet a bloody end at the hands of poachers. The number of African elephants has fallen by 76% since 1980. They aren’t alone: poachers have thinned the once vast herds of black rhinos in Africa, leaving just 5,000 alive in the wild. These animals are being hunted to death.

But that’s only where poaching starts. Wildlife trafficking has become a global criminal enterprise, worth up to $10 billion a year and fed by the growing demand in Asia for ivory products. Money from the illegal wildlife trade goes to gangs of insurgents like al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda-backed Somali terrorist group responsible for last year’s devastating attack on a Nairobi shopping mall. Wildlife trafficking is no longer just a niche problem for conservationists. It’s something that threatens us all.

That’s why it’s so heartening to see world leaders beginning to get serious about the issue.

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Break the Link Between Terrorism Funding and Poaching

Reblogged from the Washington Post.

“The connection between terrorism and poaching… A must read for those interested in rhino and elephant conservation.” ~ Andrew Wyatt

By Johan Bergenas and Monica Medina, Published: January 31

Johan Bergenas is deputy director of the Managing Across Boundaries Initiative at the Stimson Center, a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank that studies peace and security challenges around the world. Monica Medina is a former special assistant to U.S. defense secretaries Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel.Elephant

There is a new threat in the terrorist hotbed of Africa, and the U.S. military can do much more to combat it. Poaching of endangered elephants and rhinos has become a conservation crisis, and profits from wildlife crimes are filling the coffers of terrorist organizations. The twin crises should be cause for alarm for military leaders, not just conservation groups. They need to start working together before it is too late.

In the past two years, about 60,000 elephants and more than 1,600 rhinos have been slaughtered by poachers, according to reports from the Wildlife Conservation Society, theInternational Union for Conservation of Nature and others. About a thousand park rangers have died in the past decade defending the animals.

In 2014 there have already been 86 rhinos poached.

In 2014 there have already been 86 rhinos poached.

Illegal wildlife trade generates an estimated $19 billion a year — more than the illicit trafficking of small arms, diamonds, gold or oil. A July Congressional Research Service report found that a rhino horn is worth more than $50,000 per kilogram on the black market — more than gold or platinum. Sadly, poaching elephants and rhinos in Africa is easy money for terrorists, and they are cashing in.

One Elephant Action League undercover investigation in Kenya concluded that illegal ivory funds as much as 40 percent of the operations of al-Shabab, the group behind the November attack at a Nairobi shopping mallwhere 60 people were killed. The former director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service and theU.N. secretary general have drawn similar links between crime against wildlife and al-Shabab, al-Qaeda and the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army.

Last May, President Obama called for a new strategy to fight al-Qaeda and its affiliates. To be effective, these counterterrorism plans must engage not only African defense leaders but also conservation and development leaders. U.S. military plans for Africa should include ending elephant and rhino poaching to cut off a key source of funds for al-Qaeda and other terrorists.

A high-level summit on wildlife crimes, organized by the British government, Prince Charles and Prince William, is scheduled to take place this month in London. It is the perfect place to call for a new partnership between the defense and conservation communities.

As Obama’s national security team plans its next steps, it can follow Hillary Clinton’s lead. Before stepping down as secretary of state, Clinton commissioned an intelligence review of the impact of wildlife trafficking on national security. Completed last summer, the review prompted Obama to sign an executive order creating an interagency task force to develop an anti-poaching strategy. Due out this year, the strategy should include a greater military role in responding to this growing challenge.

Last year Congress gave the Pentagon permission to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army’s poaching and human-trafficking activities. That authority should be expanded to cover all terrorist groups, including al-Shabab.

Even without specific direction from Congress, the Defense Department and intelligence agencies should work with conservation groups to combat poaching, using new and inexpensive technologies to detect and deter terrorist activities and traffickers. Drones, satellite imagery, tracking devices and other high-tech tools could transform the fight to save elephants and rhinos, cheaply and effectively starving terrorists of the easy money they gain from wildlife crimes. Already, some African countries are asking for such tools.

Top U.S. defense officials should routinely discuss wildlife trafficking in meetings with African military leaders. The U.S. military’s post-Afghanistan plans must explicitly include poaching in Africa and illegal trafficking of wildlife as new “fronts” in the war on terror. Using technology to detect and deter poachers is a much less expensive way to fight terrorists than deploying Special Operations forces — and less dangerous to U.S. troops.

Finally, private-sector security and technology companies should be encouraged to work with African governments to deploy sensors, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, satellites and other sophisticated data-gathering and detection systems. These types of defense technologies are needed to bolster borders, ports, roads, energy facilities and other economic infrastructure in Africa. Over the next few decades, the market for this infrastructure and societal security capacity is estimated to be at least $60 trillion, according to reports by McKinsey and others. By working now to protect African economic infrastructure, which includes endangered elephants and rhinos, technology companies could reap huge financial and public relations rewards.

Security technology, military capacity and market incentives are all waiting to be deployed to defeat terrorists and save wildlife in Africa — a huge potential win-win. Here’s hoping that Prince Charles and Prince William use this month’s summit to publicly call on military and industry leaders to join the fight to conserve rhinos and elephants.