Africa’s battle to save its wildlife and national parks

CITESand the other First World forces that are preventing ‘best practice’ wildlife management in Africa.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)  held its 2016 meeting in Johannesburg in September and October.

The time has come, however, for Africa’s sovereign states to stand back, to take a good look at the convention, to evaluate its performance, and to determine if they really want to continue being members of such an iniquitous bunch of rogues.


CITES was established in 1975 for two reasons: (1) to regulate the legal trade in wildlife and wildlife products; and (2) to stop the illegal trade. These two objectives appeared to go hand in hand because – it was postulated – unless the legal trade could be properly regulated, it was doubtful that control over illegal trade would be possible. These were the foundation arguments supporting the creation of CITES; and its phantom promise has remained a transient delusion.

In order to facilitate the CITES dream, independent states seeking membership were first required to surrender (to the convention), their sovereign right to trade in their own wildlife and wildlife products. And they had to agree, also, to abide by whatever consensus decisions were voted into force during the Conferences of the Parties (CoPs). The 182 sovereign state members of CITES now make those decisions!

Notwithstanding the fact that so many of the world’s sovereign states were seemingly inspired to cooperate with CITES, so that the international wildlife trade could be effectively regulated – and the illegal trade terminated – that they surrendered so much of their sovereignty to the convention is quite extraordinary. How CITES persuaded them to relinquish their crucial trading rights – and to agree to abide by the convention’s consensus instructions – is nothing short of a miracle.

In retrospect, however, we have to seriously consider if those were wise compliances? I don’t think so! As things have turned out, the sovereign states of the world have clearly sold their souls to the devil! It needs to be noted, however, that they did so in good faith and on the understanding that their sacrifice might better enable CITES to fulfill its well intentioned promises.

The manner in which CITES currently conducts its business leaves a great deal to be desired; and as it has matured, ever more unfortunate situational conditions have occurred. These evolved, not by design, but as a result of ‘adaptive administration’. As a problem arose so a solution was created to ameliorate it.

Many of these solutions, however, have resulted in CITES restructuring its objectives. In the process it has shifted ever further away from the position that enabled it to fulfill its original purpose. And it is now quite certain that it will never be able to keep the promises it initially made to its sovereign state members.

In a nutshell:

  • CITES no longer properly regulates the legal international wildlife trade;
  • It has proved that it cannot halt the illegal trade;
  • Because of the dominant and inordinate pressure of its accredited animal rights NGOs – particularly during the convention’s debates – CITES is now becoming alarmingly prohibitionist. For example, on the NGO’s agenda for CITES 2016, is a demand for the total closure of wildlife trade worldwide.
  • The CITES NGO’s are thus being permitted to promote their own abolitionist doctrine at the convention – which is anti-hunting; anti-harvesting; and anti all forms of essential and desirable lethal wildlife management practices;
  • CITES clearly no longer supports the sustainable wildlife utilisation desiderata that were advocated in the IUCN’s World Conservation Strategy, 198O – on which all responsible states modelled their National Conservation Strategies; and
  • The current secretary general (Scanlon) has demonstrated that he is a staunch fellow traveller of the animal rights brigade. CITES, therefore, is now totally biased in favour of the animal rightist ideology.

Today, CITES represents the biggest obstacle to common sense, science-based wildlife management practices throughout the world. One must ask the question, therefore, why intelligent and responsible societies continue to allow their governments to retain their memberships of this now defunct disaster.

The original CITES ideal was, basically, good; and it was designed with all the best intentions in the world. But as it changed, its modified structures ran away with themselves – and nobody had the gumption to put the brakes on. Now, instead of assisting states with the implementation of their wildlife trade programmes, CITES has become the greatest impediment, not only to honest trade, but also to the application of ‘best practice’ wildlife management.

How did this happen?

First of all, there was a major flaw in the original CITES concept that went unnoticed. To explain this, I am going to use the African elephant as an example.

There are 37 countries in Africa in which elephant populations exist. They are called the ‘elephant range states’. This means that there are 145 CITES member countries which don’t have elephants (80 percent). These states, therefore, are uninformed about elephants and their management needs. They also have no accountability should they happen to vote for a poor elephant management decision. They can simply walk away from their mistakes! Range states, on the other hand, have to live with the consequences.

When CITES imposed the international ivory trade ban in 1989, and declared the elephant to be a so-called ‘endangered species’, three quarters of the elephant range states recorded their objections to both these edicts. But, because they had signed agreements to abide by the convention’s consensus decisions, they were forced to accept them. So the opinions of the states with the greatest knowledge about elephants and their management needs, were declared – by the rules of CITES – irrelevant.

This reflects a major flaw in the CITES ideal. The vast majority of its voting members are states where the species involved in the CoP debates don’t occur. They are not ‘range states’.

In 1987, for example, 99 percent of the CITES signatories – who voted to allow, or to disallow, the Inuits (Eskimoes) of Alaska and Northern Canada the right to continue harvesting the arctic walrus – were not walrus range states at all. Yet they had the power to make this vital decision – and to deny the eskimoes permission to harvest these abundant animals – which they have been doing successfully (without outside interference) since time began.

In 1989, identical conditions pertained during to the debate on the African elephant. It was people who knew nothing about elephants had them declared an ‘endangered species’; and who banned the international ivory trade. And the same situations have prevailed with each and every other species that has been debated during every Conference of the Parties (CoPs) since 1975.

The reality is: the vast majority of people with the power to vote at CITES have no professional or hands-on experience in the management of the animals (or the plants) that they are required to vote on. Furthermore – in honest truth – every single CITES delegate is really ONLY interested in debates that concern species which exist within his own country.

What world society fails to grasp, too, is that the decisions made at CITES are frequently a matter of life or death for many people living in the range states concerned. And the range states – in the survival interests of the species under consideration – and in the best interests of their human populations – require that CITES provides them with a responsible outcome of honest CITES debates. They require results that will support the implementation of their science-based wildlife management practices, into posterity. The CITES voting mechanism, however, is such that honest results cannot possibly be produced.

Only the range states themselves are truly conversant with the conditions that pertain to the species within their own jurisdictions. And ONLY the range states are affected – positively or negatively – by the CITES decisions. Furthermore, ONLY the range states are accountable for the consequences of those decisions – good or bad. So it is appropriate that ONLY the range states should be allowed make those decisions.

CITES, therefore, is a travesty!


CITES is controlled by a secretariat of select officers who are paid by UNEP (The United Nations Environment Programme). It is headed by a secretary general whose task is to facilitate the CoPs; and to guide delegates through the quagmire of CITES articles (rules and regulations). The secretariat, however, is not permitted to influence delegates towards any particular conclusion.

The secretariat produces written information documents at every CITES meeting, with a view to broadening the non-range-states’ understanding of the species included on the agendas. In most cases, these delegates have never seen nor even heard about such species before. This practice helps, but it is far from satisfactory – because the outcome of all these debates is simply too important to be dependent upon such dubious ‘expertise’.

For many years, now, the secretariat has also invited NGOs of various persuasions to become ‘accredited’ to CITES – many of whom claim improbable biological expertise. The secretariat – in its lack of wisdom (?) – concluded that this so-called ‘advance’ would provide delegates with a new and wider range of often contradictory arguments which, it was thought, would enable them to make sounder voting decisions than they would otherwise have done.

This new opportunity precipitated a rush of animal rightist NGOs into CITES – which opened up a great many controversies and caused them to fester

Many believe that ‘animal rights’ and ‘animal welfare’ is one and the same thing – which is totally not the case! The animal welfare organisations’ purpose is not to stop man using animals but rather that, when he does so, he treats them humanely.

It is the purpose of the animal rightists, on the other hand, to ABOLISH all animal – both domestic and wild – uses by man. One of their especial aversions is that man should not profit from the exploitation of wildlife. Hence their opposition to the wildlife trade is vitriolic.

The obvious question is: “If the animal rightists are so totally opposed to the wildlife trade, why on earth did they accredit themselves to CITES – whose specific purpose is to REGULATE the trade?” The answer is, they joined CITES to sabotage its objectives! They joined CITES to STOP the wildlife trade!

CITES has since become the most powerful weapon in the animal rightists’ arsenal.

Whilst the official signatories at CITES have a vote, the accredited NGOs do not. Decisions are made when votes are cast at the end of each debate.   Nevertheless, although they don’t have a vote, the accredited NGOs at CITES have exactly the same rights of participation as those enjoyed by the state members. So, although they may not have voting power, the NGOs have considerable ‘persuasion’ power.

The animal rightists, therefore, spend their time during every two week long convention, wooing the official delegations – trying to convince them to cast their votes in the direction the NGOs demand. They are adept at selecting those of the non-range-state delegates who are uncertain; and they wine and dine them – spending lavishly whenever and wherever they believe they can persuade the delegate to cooperate.

Money often changes hands. In other words votes are bought. This means, of course, that many delegates are not honest brokers. Some even have pet NGOs to whom they sell their votes at every successive convention. I have personally interviewed two, both of whom told me that their return air fares had been paid for by an NGO, as had their hotel bills, their bar bills, their telephone bills – even their ladies of the night bills – in exchange for their votes.

This is how a great deal of the voting at CITES is conducted. This is how honest sovereign states place the fate of their precious wildlife resources into the hands of scoundrels. It must be noted that most of the delegates have no idea how they should vote on most of the subjects on the agenda. So they are easily manipulated.

When I explain these circumstances, I am often asked: “Now why would an animal rightist – first of all – want to accredit himself to CITES; and – secondly – why would he want to buy votes.”

The answer is simple: When an NGO delegation returns to its First World environment – having successfully (for example) engineered a ban on the trade in ivory, and having had the elephant declared an endangered species – their gullible publics replenish their coffers with substantial donations. They believe the NGOs are doing a sterling job at CITES, protecting (in this case) the so-called ‘endangered’ elephant.

The monies so generated are not chicken feed. Some of the bigger animal rights NGOs enjoy annual incomes (from donations alone) amounting to several hundred million US dollars. So their participation at CITES is part of a massive confidence industry.

The tragedy of this whole scenario is that we southern Africans view wildlife as being a WILD “product of the land” – just as cattle, sheep and goats are TAME “products of the land” – and we believe that both should be used wisely and sustainably for the benefit of Africa’s people. Most people in the First World (especially Americans) neither understand nor appreciate the significance of this fact. Nor do they accept that wildlife can or should be considered a ‘resource’ – a marketable commodity that can be used to increase a country’s wealth. Conditioned by their urban environments, they believe that capitalizing on making money out of wildlife is immoral.

In this regard, the rift in understanding that exists between America and southern Africa is huge.

The American wildlife culture is “anti-market hunting”. In that country, although you can legally hunt indigenous game you cannot sell the venison. This ideal is very closely linked to the animal rightists’ ABOLITION objective – which is the reason why organisations like the US Fish & Wildlife Service fraternize so comfortably with the American animal rights brigade. Indeed, so cosy is their relationship, that they jointly planned and executed the 1989 CITES ivory trade ban debacle.   This has resulted in many Africans viewing America’s involvement in Africa – generally – with very jaundiced eyes. And I believe the American administration needs to seriously consider this state of affairs.

By contrast, all the states of southern Africa enjoy a “commercial wildlife culture” that focuses on remuneration as the incentive for their wildlife management programmes.

And there are plans afoot, throughout southern Africa, to incorporate poverty-stricken and unemployed rural people into the region’s wildlife economy; thus lifting them out of poverty. None of those schemes will come to fruition, however, if the animal rightists – and their cohorts of friends in the American administration – achieve their abolitionist objectives at CITES.

Image credit: Biltongmakers.Com

Here are some statistics (2015) from South Africa’s ever expanding wildlife industry:

  • Private game ranches occupy 16.8 % of agricultural land in South Africa. Government protected areas, by comparison, comprise 6.1 %.
  • Last year the wildlife industry contributed R 9 bn to the country’s GDP.
  • Private game ranches carry 16 million head of game compared to the 6 million that occupy the national parks.
  • The wildlife industry contributes 20% of all red meat consumed in the country.
  • 100 000 people are permanently employed in the wildlife industry.
  • Game Ranch reward systems are three times greater than in conventional stock farming.

Animal rights propaganda proclaims that when people commercialise wild animals, they over-utilise them and ultimately render them extinct. They are silent, however, when it is pointed out that the most utilised animals on earth are domestic and nobody believes they will ever become extinct. Why? Because mankind cannot exist without them! Furthermore – where it has been tested – when wildlife has become the main source of income in African tribal areas, it is the people who benefit the most that have developed into wildlife’s greatest custodians.

The animal rights brigade puts on a brave and purist front to the world – portraying the illusion that it is as pure as driven snow; and that its members are the only true ‘conservationists’ on the planet. They are far from that! Theirs is the biggest confidence industry the world has ever known.

The modus operandi of the major Animal Rightist NGOs smacks of racketeering; which is one of 35 crimes that the American “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act” (The RICO Act) lists as constituting ‘organised crime’. These are the types of people with whom the American administration is currently happily rubbing shoulders!

Racketeering is defined as: The act of offering a dishonest service (a “racket”) – at a price – to solve a problem that would not exist had the enterprise (The NGO) which is offering the service, not manufactured the problem in the first place.

Animal rights propaganda – universally – expounds the notion that due to what they describe as uncontrolled poaching the ‘already endangered’ African elephant is facing extinction. This is a highly emotive statement that has been carefully designed to stir the sensitivities of vulnerable First World publics. And it is not true.

In Africa south the Zambezi and Cunene Rivers, whatever limited elephant poaching is taking place, is under reasonable control. It is certainly not adversely affecting any elephant population’s numerical status.

Practically every major elephant population in southern Africa is ‘excessive’; it is expanding rapidly; it is not suffering any form of reduced rate of growth as a consequence of poaching; and the species is certainly NOT facing extinction.

An ‘excessive’ population is one that exists in numbers that are unsustainable by the habitat in which it lives. Excessive elephant populations, therefore, are responsible for massive habitat destruction and are greatly detrimental to national park biological diversities. This state of affairs is not desirable and the indicated ‘best practice’ elephant management action is to drastically reduce such populations in number – by, in the first instance, cutting their numbers in half!


The animal rightist NGOs have corrupted CITES and converted the convention into a weapon that they now use, unscrupulously, to serve their own doctrinaire purposes. As a consequence, CITES has been forced into a state of virtual anarchy. The entire world should be exposed to this reality, and responsible world governments need to do something about it.

All this fills me with a sense of despair. The sovereign states of Africa should not be running around yapping at the heels of the highly corrupted ‘great CITES parade’. They should, collectively, be resigning from it and setting up a similar solely African institution that will nurture the true wildlife management and wildlife trading needs of Africa. ONLY when Africa resigns from CITES’s will this continent‘s wildlife potentials be fully realised. Only then will Africa’s rural people – for the first time in centuries – be able to meld with, and benefit from, ‘their’ wildlife on a sustainable basis.

Kenya has already allowed its foreign NGOs to dictate that country’s wildlife management policies – through some very serious corruption. No other African country should allow that to happen,

It would be better if each African state paddled its own wildlife management and wildlife trade canoe – as they did prior to 1975. Individually, they can do a lot better than does the undesirable collective recipe that CITES is forcing upon them.

It is time for CITES to be euthanazed!





  1. CITES has outlived it’s intended creation as it is a proven fact that the hunter is the true conservationist, protecting animals as needed for continued sustainability, in lieu of with CITES closing their eyes to the real problem of poaching and illegal trade of animals or their parts, and lining their pockets with money to keep their doctrines in effect. Without the hunting industry, the animals disappear as previously documented, the animal carcasses taken by poachers serve no good to local people, as well as the loss of hunting funds spent pursuing legally conserved animals, of which is very substantial in supporting the economy in all aspects of human life. These funds are substantially greater than those collected from average non hunting tourist trades that there is no comparison. It is time to let each countries wildlife agencies to work with the hunting conservationists to determine the best “Laws of Nature”.

    • Ron Thomson

      Dear Randy,

      What can I say. You are right. Just keep punting these views into the public domain with the objective of getting ordinary people in society to understand.
      Well done.

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