Wildlife trade shortcomings are regulatory, ethical issues

16Oct 2019
The Guardian
Wildlife trade shortcomings are regulatory, ethical issues

CONCERNS about the condition of wildlife conservation are always plentiful in the West, with activist organizations closely following what is taking place on the ground. Their researches and updates form the background of global deliberations on the issues, for instance to prepare and observe how-

- countries implement agreed rules on wildlife trade. Their work has preponderant weight in what happens in the wildlife sector worldwide, and conditions policy as well.

This implies that any new report surfacing from the major international wildlife conservation NGOs makes ripples and each of these imprints on the ground affects the mood in which wildlife trade is conducted. It means we also need to take stock of what we hear from time to time to put out heads together as to where we stand on the issues. Otherwise the country is caught unawares as word goes around on what is wrong, or lack idea or suggestions on the issues.

That is why a new report which has purportedly found out that both legal and illegal trade is detrimental to the conservation of Africa’s iconic wildlife is quite interesting, or intriguing.  It emanates from a London-based NGO, World Animal Protection and was published to coincide with World Animal Day, and it examines the condition of wildlife trade in near-threatened species known as the Big 5 and a new acronym, Little 5 most-in-demand species. It raises some disturbing questions on how trade in those species impacts their conservation.

There are observations on hunting the Big 5 that can be confined to the proper attention of conservationists, as they relate to the discomfort that animals are likely to experience, and in certain cases, how many will be alive at the end of that journey. As the trade basically revolves around pets kept in private zoos in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, questions of losses by death of the caught animals is basically a trade issue. Not many will see it as ethics in the first place.

The Big Five at issue are considered to be threatened with extinction if hunted in substantial numbers, namely lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants and the Cape buffalo.  Yet numbers that we hear from many areas, especially for crocs and even elephants means they are quite numerous.  They attack villagers, etc.

The tone of the new report has a rather disturbing aspect to it, namely the idea that wildlife trade, both legal and illegal, is damaging the conservation of wild populations through unsustainable harvesting, species loss and the spread of disease. The clear implication is that it is better to do away with wildlife trade as a whole, and indeed the conditions in which this trade can be carried out is a bit confused, with the country losing billions of shillings in revenue as a result. There is no inkling if stopping wildlife trade in 2016 was tied to a conditionality.

Local wildlife and especially bird breeders have lost revenues and failed to pay loans, lost markets in foreign countries because of a fiat to stop exporting bird species and a number of others. When they are bred in captivity that means their wildlife conservation situation is not affected, in which case they can be sold like other products. If there are shortcomings of sensitivity or undue cruelty to animals, surely they can be sorted out by inspections, certification?