US-South Africa Anti-Poaching Cooperation
The US and South Africa announced (January 25) the formation of a new Task Force on Combating the Financing of Wildlife Trafficking to combat, among other things, the trafficking in abalone, rhino horns, pangolins, and elephant ivory.
The Task Force will work to combat illicit finance linked to illegal wildlife trade in three key areas:
the sharing of financial red flags and indicators relating to wildlife trafficking cases;
increased information sharing to better support key law enforcement agencies to help bolster law enforcement efforts to use financial investigations to pursue and recover the illicit proceeds of wildlife criminals; and,
the convening of government and private sector persons and organizations in an effort to improve controls to combat money laundering and the illicit proceeds related to drug trafficking and wildlife trafficking.
Rhino Poaching in India Reported to be Zero in 2022
The India State of Assam in India is reporting that in 2022, there were no reports of poaching of Indian rhinos, the lowest amount in 22 years, with just two poaching reports in 2021. Assam says it put a “Special Rhino Protection Force” in place in 2019 to stop poaching in Kaziranga National Park (KNP).
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that there are about 3,700 Indian rhinos in the wild today which are found only in the Brahmaputra Valley, parts of North Bengal, and parts of southern Nepal. KNP has more than 2,600, with another 250 in other Indian parks such as the Pobitora Sanctuary, which has the highest density in the world.
Rhino Poaching in Africa
A IUCN report (August 22) describes that Rhino poaching is continuing to drop, with rates in Africa falling from a peak of 5.3% of the total population in 2015, to a rate of 2.3% in 2021. The report suggests that the decline is due at least in part to COVID-19 lockdown and related travel restrictions.
The report also concludes that while Asian Rhinos are have suffered significant declines tied to poaching, conservation efforts and improved law enforcement have led to the growth since 2018 in one-horned rhinos in India and Nepal (3,588 to 4,014) by the end of 2021, and Javan rhinos (65-68 to 76). The range estimate of Sumatran rhinos declined to 34-47, down from 40-78 in 2018.
In its annual State of the Rhino report (September 2022), the International Rhino Foundation claims that illegal trade in rhino horn is continuing to drive poaching, with an estimated 1,000 rhino horns traded each year. African white rhino populations are continuing to decline because of poaching, while black rhino populations are increasing.
A 2022 Elephant Conservation Report of the African Wildlife Foundation found that elephant populations are increasing in key locations. The report claims that Kenya’s elephant population is increasing by 5% annually, with an estimated 36,280 elephants in 2021. Tanzania’s elephant population has increased from approximately 43,000 in 2014 to 60,000 in 2021.
An article by the Elephant Crisis Fund (August 12) says that while “levels of poaching have remained low across Africa,” recent seizures of ivory suggest that there has been an upswing in the ivory trade that started earlier this year.
Elephant Hunting Trophy Imports
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) approved six applications (April 2022) for hunters to bring in hunting ‘trophies’ (i.e., elephant parts). These were the first applications approved for this purpose since 2017, when FWS put a hold on applications to bring in elephant tusks, feet, and tails.
This action followed a settlement in a 2019 case brought by a hunting organization and the Government of Namibia against the agency. The settlement will require the processing of 11 hunter applications. Another 73 need consideration.
Elephant hunting is considered appropriate by the FWS if it is legal, regulated, and part of an elephant management program. Namibia claims hunting fees are used to finance conservation activities. Environmental interest groups believe that FWS should deny all applications because of elephant population declines; corruption in Namibia and other trophy hunt countries; and legal considerations tied to the trophy trade under the Endangered Species Act.
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Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) of Wild Fauna and Flora
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES) is the current international treaty intended to protect endangered animals and plants. About 5,000 species of animals and 29,000 species of plants are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade.
Status: CITIES entered into force in 1975.