Legal Sales of Ivory & Rhino Horn do NOT ’cause’ Poaching

There has been a small avalanche of literature in recent months reinforcing the suggestion that legal ivory and rhino horn sales – and sales in other wildlife commodities – causes ‘spikes’ in the poaching of elephants and rhinos (and of the other species, too.) These kinds of statements have been used by CITES (continually) to disallow the re-introduction of legal sales in stock-piled ivory and rhino horn. There is a new article this week (by Kenyadan) who disputes these same erroneous suggestions made by ‘so-called scientists’  in America. The latest example in support of such an absurdity suggests that when CITES permitted a  small legal  sale of stock-piled ivory in 2008, it caused an immediate increase in elephant poaching.  And tracked illegal-ivory-sale statistics were apparently used to support that suggestion.
This has all gone too far.  And it is time that some real truths about Africa and its recent poaching history be revealed.
Let me provide you with another tack to this story.
Benson Obdiel Kibonde – the much respected Chief Warden,  Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania – wrote a letter to Andre Degeorges in America, dated 3 June 2015.   In that letter he told Andre that there  had been a large and progressive poaching event in the Selous Game Reserve (between 2008 and 2012) during which time the  elephant population of the Selous Game Reserve was reduced from approx 70 000 to 13 000.  So 57 000 elephants had been killed during that period. SOME ‘SPIKE’!
“Andre….” Kibonde emphasized in his letter: “Remember that 100 % of the poaching in our protected areas in Tanzania is 100% of the making of Tanzanians”. YOU, and everybody else who reads this, can make your own conclusions about THAT remark!
And he revealed that he (Kibonde) had been mysteriously transferred from the Selous Game Reserve in 2008, on a temporary posting to the Pasiansi Wildlife Training Institute, for the exact duration of this poaching event. He returned to the Selous in July 2012 after the poaching event had been concluded. So, it seems, he was purposefully removed from the Selous for the entire duration of the poaching event.
NOTE:  There is ample “suggestive evidence” which will lead everybody and anybody with a modicum of common sense, to believe that this poaching event in the Selous was orchestrated by the government of Tanzania under the leadership of President Jakaya Kiwete.
(THIS OUGHT TO BE PROPERLY INVESTIGATED BY AN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TEAM OF EXPERTS).
NB: Are we to seriously believe CITES, therefore, when it claims that the permitted small scale ivory sale in 2008, actually ‘spiked’ the  massive Selous elephant poaching event?  That statement is patently nonsense!
That the ‘spike’ occurred I have no doubt.  The extent and size of the illegal ivory sales after 2008 (without CITES permits) must have boggled the minds of those who recorded them!  But the massive Selous elephant poaching event here recorded  was certainly not ’caused’ by a CITES approved small-scale sale of legal ivory.  The Selous poaching event was a planned national event.
In a much earlier (1976 to 1986) poaching event in the Selous, Dr. Rolf Baldus (who spent 13 years working in the Selous on behalf of CIC) reports that the Selous elephant population was (during THAT period) reduced from 110 000 to 55 000.
And Baldus further claims: that the poaching “had its roots in political and business circles in Tanzania, in the villages bordering the Selous Game Reserve, and partly within the conservation system itself.”
He further stated: “During this time the plight of the African elephant became an international issue.”
I am not yet finished.  Baldus (2005), commenting on elephant poaching in Tanzania over a much longer period of time (1977 – 1993) claimed that Tanzania’s elephant population fell from 365 000 to 53 000.  And he had THIS to say about the perpetrators:
“Village poachers and game scouts did the shooting, but “big people’- politicians, civil servants, businessmen and even hunting operators – masterminded the slaughter.”
When we look at Kenya’s poaching history,  an even more horrific story unfolds –  if that is possible!  Between 1970 and 1989 Kenya’s elephant herds are alleged to have been reduced from 275 000 to 20 000 – orchestrated principally by Mamma Ngina Kenyatta (First Lady in the Land  – wife of President Jomo Kenyatta); but also by Margaret Wambi (Mayor of Nairobi) who was a Jomo Kenyatta daughter from a previous marriage; by other members of the Kenyatta family; and by President Kenyatta’s business and political cronies.
Other game deaths during this period, caused by the same Kenyatta  poaching cartel, include 10 000 black rhinos (killed during the 1970s) ; 8000 zebra; and 26 000 Colobus monkeys.
It has been reported that rural village hunters did most of the killing under the protection of a political indemnity from arrest.  And these incidents were, apparently, all debated in the Kenyan parliament but to no avail. Ngina and Margaret Wambi simply ignored all the protests.
(THESE ALLEGATIONS, ALSO, OUGHT TO BE PROPERLY INVESTIGATED BY AN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TEAM OF EXPERTS).
Similar large poaching  events have been reported from Zimbabwe and Zambia – allegedly also orchestrated by presidents and vice-presidents.
(THESE ALLEGATIONS, TOO, OUGHT TO BE PROPERLY INVESTIGATED BY AN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL TEAM OF EXPERTS).
Look at any of these alleged politically orchestrated  GREAT poaching events and find out how few – if any –  arrests were made of ‘the poachers’ who killed these animals.  When such poaching events have been reported, no mention is made, at all, about the arrests of the culprit poachers. They weren’t arrested because those who pulled the triggers had immunity from arrest!
This TRUTH – and it IS ‘the truth’ (or it is as near as dammit to the truth that I can make it) – makes a complete mockery of CITES statements about ‘poaching events’ (by a poaching mafia and/or by rural ‘greedy’ village poachers);  about the ’cause of poaching’ being the existence of legal markets in wildlife commodities (especially elephant ivory and rhino horn) ; about ‘legal sales’ of ivory causing  ‘spikes’ in elephant poaching (et cetera).  And a whole lot more.   These are all ‘excuses’ that have been used by CITES to STOP legal trade in ivory and rhino horn.  In the face of the FACTS (above) they make CITES criminally neglectful of its duty.  And its duty is to provide a regulatory service to the sovereign states of the world  that will enable them to establish and to properly control such activities as legal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horns.  Instead all CITES has served up for Africa are PROHIBITIONS.
Instead of being a responsible and honourable part of international society, the CITES Secretariat has allowed the convention to become a pro-animal rightist and organised crime abomination!
The True Green Alliance recommends to CITES that, if it really wants to do something about  the poaching of Africa’s  iconic animals, that it causes every one of these serious allegations to be properly investigated by appropriate legal people.
It is time these truths ‘come out’ and that CITES performs as it was intended to do. There is still time for CITES to change.  But to do THAT there must be a will to do so.
And I do not see much of that will anywhere around.  When I look at CITES, and when I participate in CITES functions, all I see is a Secretariat that is 100 percent compliant with its two-thirds majority accredited  rightist NGO delegates. It has lost direction; and  I see no possibility for any kind of redemption.
Ron Thomson.  CEO – TGA

Ron Thomson

I am NOT a ‘trophy hunter’ - and never have been. I am not involved in the trophy hunting safari business. I am also not a game rancher. But I have ‘administratively controlled’ professional hunters and safari outfitters in my capacity as a government game warden. I am an 80 year old ex-game warden with 60 years of continuous experience in hands-on wildlife management, and national park management, in Africa (1959 to 2019). In breakdown, I have 24 years experience in the management of national parks in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe - and in the management of the wild animal populations that lived inside those national parks; one year as the Chief Nature Conservation of the Ciskei in South Africa; three years as Director of the Bophuthatswana National Parks Board in South Africa; and I worked for three years as a professional hunter in the South African Great Karoo (taking foreign hunters on quests for plains game trophies). I discovered, however, that professional hunting was not my forte. I worked as an investigative wildlife journalist for 30 years in South Africa. I have written fifteen books and hundreds of magazine articles on the subject of wildlife management and big game hunting in Africa. Five of my books are university-level text books on wildlife management. I am a university-trained ecologist; was a member of the Institute of Biology (London) for 20 years; and was a registered chartered biologist for the European Union for 20 years. I have VAST experience in the “management hunting” of elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and hippos (as part of my official national park work in the control of problem animals); and I pioneered the capture of black rhino in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley (1964 - 1970). My university thesis was entitled: “The Factors Affecting the Survival and Distribution of Black Rhinos in Rhodesia”. Look at my personal website if you want any further details about my experience: www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za.

Ron Thomson has 159 posts and counting. See all posts by Ron Thomson

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