VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
These slideshow images, taken by Paul Hilton for WCS in 2016, illustrate the multitude of challenges faced in conserving the Sumatran elephant. These include the conversion of forest habitat to oil palm plantations, degradation of forest habitat by illegal logging, conflicts with farmers through crop-raiding, and being illegally hunted for their ivory tusks.
As the government rolls out the closing of the market, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) is observing hopeful results as in the Save the Elephants report issued this week. We believe that the ban has played a significant role in de-valuing ivory. We also believe that the ban has increased motivation for enforcement agencies to enhance actions on illegal ivory trade.
In late December of 2016, Paraguay launched an initiative to balance the ecological needs of the jaguar—the world’s third largest big cat species—with those of ranchers who raise cattle in the same landscapes. Paraguay’s Secretary of Environment (SEAM) announced the completion of a 10-year national plan that contains the contributions of a unique mix of NGOs, researchers, and ranchers who seek to maintain jaguars as the symbol of wild across the productive landscapes and protected areas of Paraguay.
Our recent report on global cheetah decline provides alarming reading. Using the best available information, we estimate that there are only about 7,100 wild cheetah left in the world. The species is now restricted to less than 10% of its historical distribution, and survives in just 33 populations, most of which number fewer than 100 individuals
The WCS team in Wakhan decided to undertake an expedition to visit the last known location of snow leopard named ‘Shirin’ that had been fitted with a satellite GPS and radio collar in Tajikistan by our colleagues with Panthera. The search had to be organized in a great hurry as high passes leading to Afghanistan’s Little Pamir can be blocked by snow as early as mid-November, rendering the area inaccessible until spring.
As 196 signatory nations of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) meet this week in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss their progress towards averting the current biodiversity crisis, researchers from a range of universities and NGOs report in the international journal Conservation Letters that habitat destruction still far outstrips habitat protected across many parts of the planet.
Now facing hunting pressure to meet a growing demand for trade in its parts, the jaguar occupies a special place in the history, culture, and traditions of Latin America. Revered for centuries by indigenous peoples for its strength and agility, the jaguar may well depend for its continued existence upon the care and cooperation of those who continue to live with this extraordinary animal.
Notes WCS VP for Species Conservation Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, “What the authors of the new PNAS study have shown us is that ivory, once it’s poached from elephants in Africa, is going very rapidly straight into the trade. This is all new ivory that is getting caught going into the illegal markets. It’s not old ivory from stockpiles. And that’s somewhat of a surprise. We thought that stockpiles were probably leaking into the market. But it appears that stockpiled ivory is either being protected or has been destroyed in one of the many initiatives to burn or crush that material.”
It is amazing that we still know so little about one of the world’s great cats. However, our knowledge and efforts on behalf of what was once a near mountain phantom are growing, even as the snow leopard helps to bring communities, government, and the international community together. On this International Snow Leopard Day, there is a growing sense that we may be able to save one of the last great wildernesses in Asia, and the great cat that defines it.
The Great Elephant Census showed that important elephant populations persist in several key range areas that historically supported large numbers of elephants – so there is still much to fight for in the battle to save Africa’s elephants. Fortunately, there are some signs of hope – both in sites covered by the GEC and other elephant sites.
Notes Susan Lieberman, Wildlife Conservation Society VP for International Policy and head of the WCS CITES delegation, “Science and wildlife conservation prevailed at CITES CoP17. The decisions made by the gathering countries were based on the best available scientific information. Further, we were encouraged that governments fully embraced the precautionary principle by making decisions in the best interest of the species in the wild. After attending 11 CoPs, I strongly believe this was among the most successful CoP ever for wildlife.”
In a statement in response to action taken today to transfer the African grey parrot to CITES Appendix I, WCS VP for International Policy Susan Lieberman said, “We congratulate the Parties to CITES for agreeing to transfer the African grey parrot from Appendix II to Appendix I, thereby prohibiting all international commercial trade. If this bird could talk – and it certainly can – the African grey parrot would say thank you. With the protection of Appendix I, and the enhanced enforcement that is needed, the voice of the African grey parrot will not be silenced across the great forests of Africa.
Governments at CITES CoP17 took action today calling for stricter enforcement from all nations to prevent the extinction of the helemted hornbill. The CITES Parties agreed to adopt a strong Resolution and Decisions calling for urgent and integrated conservation and law enforcement measures, as well as coordinated efforts on the part of both consumer and range States as necessary to prevent the species from going extinct.
The global community today further chipped away at the elephant ivory market. The countries gathered at CITES CoP17 adopted a resolution recommending the closure of domestic elephant ivory markets around the world. Traffickers and criminal networks are losing their markets and losing their financial incentives to illegally kill Africa’s elephants for their ivory.
The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) today saw passage of the resolution: Prohibiting, Preventing and Countering Corruption-Facilitating Activities Conducted in Violation of the Convention. This historic resolution marks the first time CITES Parties have addressed this issue. To mark the resolution’s adoption, this statement was released by the Wildlife Conservation Society on behalf of Dr. Susan Lieberman, WCS VP of International Policy and head of the WCS CITES Cop17 delegation.