Africa’s battle to save its wildlife and national parks
THE ELEPHANT AND RHINO POACHING SAGA (1970 – 2015) (PART IV)
The Ivory Trade Ban – UNPACKED
In July 1989, Richard Leaky – Africa’s arch animal rightist – then Director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, burnt 20 tons of elephant tusks in the Nairobi National Park on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital city. The giant pyre was laced with logs, drenched in kerosene and 200 litres of Pattex glue, and it was ignited by the then Kenyan president, Daniel Arap Moi. Through Leaky, Kenya was paid several hundred million US dollars (the estimated commercial value of the ivory) by the American administration, to orchestrate this, the ‘greatest show on earth’ at that time.
NB: To sweeten the deal, the Americans added an equivalent ‘gift’ for the purpose of upgrading Kenya’s non-consumptive tourism industry.
Why did the Americans do this? They did it because they wanted Kenya – a sovereign African state – seemingly of its own volition, to orchestrate an unforgettable anti-ivory-trade spectacle. Their purpose was to inflame international sympathies for the banning of international trade in ivory – ostensibly a Tanzanian proposal that was to be deliberated by CITES later that year.
NB: Leaky, himself, informed me of all the intimate details of the Kenyan/ American pact. Indeed, he gleefully volunteered the information, in private conversation, when he and I shared a public platform at Wits University in Johannesburg, in the early 1990s. Before that, I knew nothing about this totally clandestine arrangement.
The Americans, apparently, believed that such an extravaganza was necessary to encourage the official CITES delegates to vote in favour of the proposed international ivory trade ban – which they knew the accredited animal rights NGOs within CITES, would be prescribing. They knew because they were in cahoots with the NGOs. They also believed that Leaky’s bonfire would motivate global society to support the trade ban. This is the raw truth of the matter. The American administration was well aware of the accredited animal rightist NGOs’ agenda because it was running with these NGOs at CITES in 1989!
Their goals were identical. They both wanted the ivory trade ban to be imposed; and they wanted the elephant to be declared an endangered species. For both parties their wishes were granted.
The whole debacle, therefore, was rigged right from the beginning! The official delegates’ votes were irrelevant. The outcome was entirely based on how and by whom those votes were to be manipulated, and it had no bearing on what was best for Africa, and in particular, the African elephant! The NGOs, themselves have no vote at CITES – but they contrived to obtain votes by persuasion, by coercion and by their downright purchase (bribery).
In 1989, many of the accredited animal rightist NGOs at CITES had had regional offices operating in Nairobi for the previous 20 to 25 years! At that time there were also regular and detailed media reports concerning the poaching events – which fact makes it highly improbable that the NGOs were unaware of the poaching crimes and who were orchestrating them.
There is no doubt that the Kenyan people were aware of Mama Ngina’s ivory poaching empire. She was then the First Lady, wife of the all-powerful President Jomo Kenyatta. She is still alive today and is the mother of the current Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta. To this day she is known as the greatest of all elephant ‘butchers’ of her time, and her exploits are still discussed – but in hushed undertones for fear of the harsh retribution that is often meted out to people who denigrate African ‘royalty’.
Dr Rolf Baldus – a European immigrant working in Tanzania on a medium-length contract – whom I make mention of in a previous Armageddon article – wrote about the fact that it was the political elite and rich businessmen who were orchestrating the elephant poaching in Tanzania during the 1977-83 pandemic. And if he knew, the animal rightists must have known that, too.
By 1989, the numbers of elephants that had been slaughtered in East Africa since 1970 was inconceivable. The reduction in elephant numbers in Kenya, during the previous 19 years, has been variously estimated (in round figures) to be 250 000; and in Tanzania, over 300 000.
At the 1989 CITES convention the animal rightist NGOs emphasised these statistics as ammunition for their attack on the legal ivory trade. Their most important coup, however, was in contriving an official CITES proposal by a range state.
The British animal rights group, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), was amongst the most prominent of the NGOs who were demanding a ban on the trade in ivory. In dogged pursuance of their objective, they persuaded the Tanzanian Wildlife Society to accept a letter (which the EIA had themselves drawn up) addressed to the Secretary General of CITES. This was the official protocol that formally proposed the CITES international ivory trade ban. The EIA knew, however, that such a proposal would be more readily acceptable if it was signed by the Tanzanian president.
President Ali Hassan Mwinyi signed the letter with alacrity; and the proposal was officially logged at CITES 1989 as having been presented by Tanzania.
This, much to his chagrin, pipped Kenya’s Richard Leaky at the post – despite the theatrics with his bonfire. Nevertheless, he continued to proclaim that Kenya had made the proposal.
NB: The ivory trade ban proposal, therefore, was not placed on the table at CITES by an official delegate to the 1989 convention. It was conjured up by an aggressive animal rightist NGO who persuaded a persuadable sovereign state president to present it as his own country’s official protocol. Essentially, however, the international ivory trade ban was an animal rights proposal – very well contrived and camouflaged!
The trade ban proposal was approved. The delegates were persuaded, by statements made by the accredited animal rightist NGOs at CITES, that the principle cause of the poaching was the existence of a loophole in the CITES articles. Up until 1989, legal ivory was marketable under CITES approved permits; and the NGOs claimed that it was ‘possible’ to launder illegal ivory through this conduit. They stated that if this legal outlet was not plugged, it would be impossible to stop the illegal trade.
NB: Certainly the legal loophole could have enabled illegal ivory to be laundered through CITES – but it wasn’t. The same could be said of human beings. Everybody could be a murderer – but they are not!
There is no question that there was (and still is) a huge body of public and official opinion in East Africa that knew the legal trade in ivory, through CITES, had nothing whatsoever to do with the massive declines of elephants in either Kenya or Tanzania in the 1970s and1980s. Not one of the illegal tusks that was exported from East Africa in those days was accompanied by a CITES certificate.
Instead, seemingly by presidential decree, in both countries, most of the ivory was containerised and shipped out – without any legal documentation – from East Africa’s own Indian Ocean seaports; and it was transported directly to the Far Eastern marketplace. It was also known that all East African personnel whose services were required to make this massive illegal trade possible, had had their palms well greased with an appropriate proportion of the proceeds.
Furthermore, it was also common knowledge that the poaching linchpins were (variously): the presidents; their wives and close family members; senior government ministers; senior civil servants; and high-ranking police officers and army generals – in the countries where the poaching was taking place. Having now read countless media reports on the criminal activities perpetrated by these very senior people in government, and having been personally afforded first hand information from East African citizens whose word I trust, there is no doubt in my mind that this state of affairs is the reality. It is fact!
I attended the full two week long 1989 CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP), in Lausanne, Switzerland. It was a pathetic circus in which the animal rightists bulldozed their opinions through and over everybody else’s.
The universal ivory trade ban was instituted only by reason of the fact that the delegates, in making that decision, broke all the convention’s rules. And the African elephant was placed on the CITES Appendix I list which officially declared it to be an endangered species.
It is tragic and ironic that these decisions were made on a long trail of lies, distortions of the truth and the careful withholding of pertinent facts by the accredited animal rightist NGOs at CITES. Meanwhile, the real perpetrators of the poaching offences – the crème de la crème of society in both Kenya and Tanzania – got away with their environmental crimes scot-free.
Consider these facts:
- Having been well ensconced in Kenyan society for over 20 years, the animal rights NGOs must have been aware of the poaching events.
- Mama Ngina’s involvement in poaching activities in the 1970s and 1980s was well known and openly discussed within Kenyan society at that time.
- Stories about Mama Ngina were continuously broadcast by local and international media.
- The poaching scandal was repeatedly and openly discussed in the Kenyan parliament
The Kenya based animal rightist NGOs therefore, must have been well aware of not only Ngina’s Kenyan exploits, but also of Tanzania’s own political elite’s equally extensive elephant poaching activities. Yet not one word of these horrendous scandals was uttered during the two week long elephant debates at CITES in 1989! I was there! I participated in all the debates and workshops and I would have picked up even the faintest whisper of what was really happening in Kenya and Tanzania.
I wonder why the animal rightists hid the truth so carefully? I believe, now, that their accredited NGOs at CITES that year:
- Wanted the world to believe that a mysterious Chinese commercial poaching mafia was responsible for driving the poaching in East Africa (because that illusion hid the truth);
- Wanted the ivory trade to be shut down – by fair means or foul;
- Wanted the African elephant to be put on the CITES Appendix I list – by any means possible; and
- They knew that neither of these, their principal two objectives, would have been realised if the true state of affairs in East Africa had been revealed. So they generated a mountain of falsehoods by way of carefully contrived propaganda to achieve their goals.
The 1989 CITES ivory trade ban, and the listing of the African elephant as a so-called endangered species, therefore, were based on a series of blatant lies. And, for the last 27 years, the world has been living in the constant shadow of this gross deception.
Society the world over, therefore, needs to seriously consider two questions:
- Why on earth did the animal rightist NGOs do this – if it was not, simply, to make annual fortunes from a gullible public as a result of their deceptive and highly emotional propaganda? and
- Why on earth are intelligent people throughout the world allowing them to continue to get away with it?
Regrettably, the colossal (2008-2012) Tanzanian elephant poaching event – during Kikwete’s recent presidency – has caused the current elephant crisis furore in world society; and it has resulted, this year (2016), in demands for a total shutdown of the entire wildlife trade.
NB: If this happens, the USF&WS would have cleverly forced the whole world to comply with the tenets of the American anti-market-hunting wildlife culture – through the good offices of their partners in crime, the animal rights brigade. Every country in the world would then be forced to adopt ‘anti-market hunting’ conservation strategies.
The level of elephant poaching that took place in Kenya and Tanzania in the 1970s and 1980s, however, did not occur in any of the southern African elephant range states! Elephant poaching of this scale and nature – during the new millennium – has been confined to Tanzania (and northern Mozambique). So, why should the southern states of Africa be penalised? These states are, after all, doing a fine job of controlling any and all elephant poaching (so far). And because CITES is no longer a credible wildlife trade regulator, why should any African country comply with its demands? What is more, CITES has demonstrated that it is incapable of controlling the type of ‘presidential poaching’ that has outraged the world in recent years.
Consequently, it is my contention that Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia – even though their elephant management programmes are not perfect – but because they have commercial elephant poaching under reasonable control – should be allowed to openly and transparently market their legally produced ivory internationally. And when such a marketing programme proves that it can be administered without prejudicing Africa’s other elephant stocks, the rest of Africa should be allowed to follow suit. This strategy is the only one which will enable a common-sense superintendence regime to be returned to Africa’s wildlife management scenario.
Mama’s Ngina’s poaching escapades in Kenya (1970-1989) were abnormal. Her village poachers were working for her for substantial remuneration. So it was not their normal subsistence poaching either. Mama Ngina’s poaching was unconstrained slaughter. It also was unrelated to the existence, or otherwise, of a poaching mafia. Mama Ngina was ‘the mafia’. Hers was a ‘royal house’ criminal monstrosity – a bold and blatant abuse of her political power, pure and simple.
The same can be said of the even greater elephant poaching pandemic that took place between 1977 and 1993 in Tanzania. The elephant poaching activities in the Selous Game Reserve (2008-2012) were also not a classical example of chronic subsistence poaching. It, too, was sanctioned and orchestrated at the highest political level.
None of these scandalous events, therefore, should be cited as excuses to shut down the legal wildlife trade – which, later this century, will be vital for the long term survival of Africa’s wildlife.
What were the justifications for the 1989 CITES ivory trade ban? None at all! Today, there is no valid reason for maintaining the trade ban because poached ivory is rarely (if ever) laundered through CITES. The alleged loophole was an excuse that held no merit, but the animal rightists’ claim remains unchallenged
At this time (2016), following the massive elephant killings in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve (2008-2012), there is a renewed and gigantic effort being made by the international animal rights brigade to stop the wildlife trade altogether. The animal rightists continue, therefore, to chase their tails through the corridors of CITES! Indeed, it is being said that their main thrust at CITES this year will be to have the wildlife trade completely closed down.
If the animal rightists succeed? If the wildlife trade is banned? What then? Will the poaching stop? No it won’t stop – because:
- The next generation of corrupt politicians and civil servants – a new cohort of the same political group that have orchestrated most of the big elephant poaching events since 1970 – will still be here in Africa;
- The poverty stricken and unemployed peasants – the people who pull the triggers – will always be here, too; and they will continue their fight for their own survival by any and all means. And by the end of this century, there will be six times as many poachers as there are today;
- The black market for ivory in Asia will still be there. Ivory carving is a traditional craft that extends back millennia into ancient Chinese history. It will never go away; and
- There will still be ships sailing out of East Africa’s seaports, and their captains will continue to carry illegal ivory and rhino horn cargoes – for a worthwhile fee!
The tragedy of a complete wildlife trade ban is that it will totally destroy the potential value of wildlife (especially elephants) to the penniless rural folk of Africa, thus ruining any chance of saving Africa’s wildlife into posterity. Only when the rural people of Africa can legally and substantially benefit from the harvest of elephants, will they stop poaching them. Responsible people in world society, therefore, must learn to understand this and do everything possible to prevent a ban on the wildlife trade.
The animal rightists insist that whenever man places a price tag around an animal’s neck, he is forcing it onto the slippery slope to extinction. They refute the idea that the sustainable utilisation of wildlife for the benefit of mankind is the only way to save Africa’s wild animals into posterity. They insist that man’s ‘greed’ will inevitably cause the over-exploitation of the earth’s wildlife and its extinction will then ensue.
Nothing can be further from the truth. The most utilised animals on earth are, always have been and will remain, domestic animals – cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, chickens, ducks and geese, and many more. For millennia man’s survival has relied on his regular and sustainable use of these animals, none of which are threatened with extinction for a very good reason. Man and his civilization depend on the perpetual and sustainable use of his domestic animals. So he will take any and all steps necessary to ensure that none of them will ever become extinct.
If man is to save Africa’s wildlife, therefore, he must put the management of our wild animals on a par with that of his domestic animals. He can do this by permitting the sustainable use of wild animals – so that they can provide man with benefits that will contribute to his survival. He must render wildlife so valuable, in fact, that it becomes indispensable to him. Only then will Africa’s wild animals have a place in the sun forever.
Both wild and domestic animals are ‘products of the land’ – which should be used, wisely and sustainably for the benefit of mankind. And the people best equipped to sustainably manage them, are the practitioners – those people with their feet firmly on the ground – whose livelihoods depend on the correct management of these animals. It is certainly not the International animal rights brigade whose particular penchant is to fleece unsuspecting world societies of hundreds of millions of US Dollars in donations – solicited, ostensibly, for the purpose of resolving non-existent wildlife problems – except they might seem real enough in the fetid minds of the people who manufacture the animal rights propaganda.
Theirs is truly a classical and noteworthy confidence industry. Tragically, however, the animal rightists are winning the hearts and minds of society. And they are winning because they have had no opposition over the last 50 years. Our hunters and our game ranchers – and concerned nature lovers all – have tended to put their heads in the sand when animal rights controversies erupt – in the hope that, when they pull their heads out of the sand, the ‘bad people’ will have gone away.
Never forget: “All that is necessary for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke). This entire situation has come about, therefore, because society has not intervened to stop it; and society continues to not intervene!!!!!