When you find yourself at a particular point in history, it is vital to know how you got there, and where you want to go to from there.
This is the story behind One United Roar, and why it is so important in the world today, setting the tone for a different and better future.
Our wildlife is in crisis. What has brought us to this point, what counter-measures have worked and what, if any, are the current rules that are working for nature?
What is the outcome that we would like to see in terms of our endangered wildlife, their threatened habitats and the needs of the people who share the planet with them?
This story has two parts: firstly, looking back and, secondly, how we go forward.
Looking back over recent years, we can see that great strides have been made, and great victories have been won; but we count many more tragedies in the wake of our bumbling efforts to subdue Nature and bring her under human control.
Take a look at some of the world’s leading environmental bodies. We need to ask ourselves if these are the people we can trust to do what is best for endangered animals and the planet. Or do we need a complete overhaul of our way of thinking, feeling and being in and with nature? Just how far has humankind gone away from the natural paradigm?
It’s vital that we all get to know the answers to these and other searching questions.
CITES is the Convention for the International TRADE of Endangered Species. Note: ‘Trade’ – not ‘Protection’ – of Endangered Species.
It is an agreement between countries which send representatives to meet every 4 years to discuss and determine how species will be traded across international borders.
CITES determines international legislation according to three appendices: Appendix I,II or III, depending on what they deem to be the endangered status of any given species.
So here’s the question: Why is there no category for No Trade of endangered species?
The answer is that CITES is a commercial model controlled by trade considerations and managed by bureaucratic entities.
Are they doing a good job of protecting our endangered natural heritage?
Let’s take lions. The most sought-after trophy animal on the planet, the King of the Bushveld is at the forefront of the notorious international killing industry. Their numbers in the wild have plummeted 80% in 50 years, yet increased astronomically in captivity. Consequently, there’s an estimated 300% increase of dead lion exports in the last 10 years.
Today, there are more lions in cages than in the wild.
Does this sound as if the “tried and tested” old model of conservation is working?
Recent revelations have shown that lion killing is directly linked to lion petting. This iconic species is being commercially bred for the bullet in a merciless but lucrative industry in which international tourists pay blood money to kill Africa’s kings and queens – wild or tamed.
Is the CITES model of conservation management sustainable?
According to these statistics, lions will be extinct in the wild in our lifetimes. If we are not careful and proactive in our next steps, we will end up where we are currently headed.
So how is CITES protecting them?
Today, lions are listed on CITES Appendix II. While West Africa has been motivating to up-list lions to Appendix I for greater protection due to critically low numbers, South Africa has been motivating to down-list lions to Appendix III, based on the argument that the wild lion population in South Africa is stable and can therefore sustain increased trophy hunting levels. Their argument is based on artificially boosted numbers of lions bred in captivity for trading and hunting purposes.
The South African Predator Association (SAPA), which has been driving the South African government’s policy until now, started preparing to motivate for the down-listing of Panthera leo in the CITES convention more than a year ago.
SAPA’s purpose is to actively breed lions in captivity for the international trophy hunting industry and cross-border trade in body parts. Its stated primary objectives are to “promote the interests of its members and promote and market a positive image of the predator breeding and hunting industry.”
In a meeting held a year ago to establish the Lion Biodiversity Management Plan (LBMP) for lions in South Africa, the entire gathering of South African scientists voted in favor of down-listing lions from CITES II to CITES III with the exception of the Global White Lion Protection Trust, the organization I founded together with lion ecologist Jason A. Turner.
After this meeting, legislation was drafted in South Africa, designed to legitimize lions as a commodity in the escalating and largely unpoliced captive breeding and killing industry.
Despite urgent letters of objection (see our Letter of objection: biodiversity management plan – http://whitelions.org/2015/05/22/sa-proposed-biodiversity-management-plan-to-put-lions-at-greater-risk/ nothing shifted in favour of lions in the pro-trade pro-hunting policies.
In this commercial model of wildlife, lions have no rights to freedom or dignity. The king of animals is treated as little more than a commodity, hence the name “Canned Lion Hunting” coined by the Cook Report (a British investigative TV program) when this malpractice was exposed as long ago as 1997. To date, CITES has done nothing to curb its aggressive escalation. In fact, the very opposite: what was a handful of disreputable, mafia-type operators has escalated into a massive international killing industry. Hundreds of lion breeding facilities have been established, and thousands of captive bred lions are being raised – for the bullet.
Many breeders of captive wildlife will tell us that they are in fact conservationists, but science shows us no conservation value in their activities. For ecological and genetic reasons, there is virtually no possibility of these captive-bred predators ever returning to the ecosystem. [The Global White Lion Protection Trust’s re-introduction project in the epi-centre of the Kruger to Canyon’s Biosphere is an authority at the forefront of this issue].
Our organization has campaigned against the commoditization of lions for more than two decades. Yet, under the authority of the world’s leading conservation entities the situation has worsened consistently.
Perhaps it isn’t surprising, given that CITES, WWF and the US Fish& Wildlife Service base their logic on the same exploitative principle:
“If it pays, it stays.” And : “Kill one Lion to save five”
What we have come to realise is this: if Nature doesn’t stay, we’ll all pay.
About those lions. Lions are key to all conservation issues, and the capstone animal in an ecosystem. The way we treat lions sets the tone for all other species.
In African tradition, the Lion is revered as the king of animals, and the majority of African countries have outlawed commercial trophy hunting as a brutal relic of colonial exploitation. Botswana and Kenya, countries that have held to the ban on lion trophy hunting for many years, have shown that alternative conservation strategies do work.
The world’s pro-trade conservation bodies have been meddling with African riches and resources since the first explorers raided the continent. CITES and the IUCN are a modern day product of this power mongering, acquisitive mind set, still basing their policies on extracting species from their homelands.
Along with CITES, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species. The IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species is equivalent to the CITES appendices of endangered species.
In principle, their objectives are honourable: “To convey the urgency of conservation issues to the public and policy makers, as well as help the international community to try to reduce species extinction.”
But when it comes to actual implementation, the IUCN is programmed into materialistic, exploitative reasoning once again, as if there is no other way to treat our wildlife heritage.
Should we be shocked then to learn that Safari Club International, the world’s biggest trophy hunting outfitter, is one of the primary funders behind the IUCN.?
The IUCN’s bullying intimidation of African countries into compliance with their pro-trade, pro-trophy hunting policies led to the South Africa’s government stalling on this critical conservation lion issue, and ultimately failing to follow through on their proposed moratorium on Canned Hunting in a Supreme Court ruling in 2010.
There are valid concerns that the protected status of lions is being manipulated in international forums to accommodate trophy hunting interests from Western markets and rampant increases in trade of lion bones and parts to Eastern Markets.
This is clear from the attitude of Safari Club International to the motion to uplift lions from Appendix II to CITES I. SCI, which operates out of the comfort and glitz of Las Vegas where it wheels and deals in Africa’s wild animal trophies, clearly states on their Home Page:
“To help all hunters understand the significance of this issue, SCI provides the following list of frequently asked questions and answers.
Q: What is CITES Appendix I?
A: Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in Appendix I species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Generally speaking, commercial trade is prohibited, but trade for personal use may be allowed. Trade in hunting trophies may be allowed because it is for personal use.”
Lions – for personal use?
What should be clear is that whether lions go up or down on the CITES endangered list, for the trade and trophy hunting syndicates, it’s business as usual.
The scale of this kind of insanity is an index of humankind’s consumerism gone mad.
In the face of this madness, whether CITES shifts the Appendices up or down is simply moving deckchairs around the Titanic.
We have to turn the ship around.
What is encouraging is that we can. In Part 2, we look at how.
Join us on International Day of Peace, 21 September, as we set the intention for unity, harmony, and peace amongst all living things.
Join us on 24 September for the Global March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions. Visit http://march4elephantsandrhinos.org to find a city near you. We are demanding #Appendix1 and #NoTrade.
Join us TODAY in One United Roar: O.U.R Campaign for Lions and Nature.
ENTER the One United Roar Talent Challenge or VOTE for your favorite Entry. Entries close 21 September, voting ends 22 September. Six winners of a TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA to help save the White Lions will be announced on 24 September.