Countries failing to protect endangered species from illegal trade

WANDERLUST.CO.UK

Vietnam is among the worst offenders, while India and Nepal have been given the green score for the protection of tigers, rhinos and elephants

A new report by the WWF – Wildlife Crime Scorecard: Assessing Compliance with and Enforcement of CITES Commitments for Tigers, Rhinos and Elephants – has revealed that poor performances by key countries are endangering the survival of these endangered species. The report has rated 23 of the top African and Asian nations that face high levels of poaching and trafficking in ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts.

Vietnam received red scores for rhinos and tigers – 448 South African rhinos were killed for their horns in 2011 – and many Vietnamese have been arrested or implicated in South Africa for acquiring rhino horns, including Vietnamese diplomats.

“It is time for Vietnam to face the fact that its illegal consumption of rhino horn is driving the widespread poaching of endangered rhinos in Africa, and that it must crack down on the illegal rhino horn trade,” said Elisabeth McLellan, the Global Species Programme manager for the WWF.

“Vietnam should review its penalties and immediately curtail retail markets, including Internet advertising for horn.”

“The red [for tigers] was based on the announcement that Vietnam is considering allowing trade in tiger products from farmed tigers,” said WWF’s Wildlife Trade Policy Analyst Dr Colman O’Criodain.

Thailand was also given a red score for its failure to close a legal loophole that makes it easy for retailers to sell ivory from poached African elephants.

Dr O’Criodain explained: “Ivory from domestic animals is legally sold but there is no certification system or chain of custody rules to place a burden of proof on the seller. This means that, when challenged, a seller can claim that carvings made from illegally imported African ivory are from domestic elephants.”

Last year saw the highest elephant poaching rates across Africa, leading the report to describe the situation as “critical”. It calls for regional cooperation, especially in Central Africa, to counter the flows of illegal ivory across borders.

“Although most Central African countries receive yellow or red scores for elephants, there are some encouraging signals,” said WWF Global Species Programme manager Wendy Elliott.

India and Nepal received green scores for all three animals. Last year Nepal had no recorded rhino poaching incidents, mainly due to improvements to anti-poaching law enforcement efforts.

“Nepal was identified as a problem country for rhino poaching but this has been resolved,” said Dr O’Criodain. “It is a shining example of how even a poor country can tackle these problems.”

The Scorecard has been released in time for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s (CITES) annual Standing Committee meeting, set to launch a global campaign to fight illegal wildlife trade.

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