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Deaths, arrests, markets and trade.

Written by Greg Patrick on , Posted in Latest News / No Comments

As I sit and write this newsletter the rhino death toll for the year has hit 704. This is according to the latest stats from the Department of Environmental Affairs on the 2nd October this year. Sadly we have already surpassed last year’s total of 668 and we still have 3 months to go. Thankfully there has also been a recent increase in the amount of arrests being made and one just has to browse some recent news articles to see that convictions and prosecutions are looking promising. This is what we need, not overturned convictions or successful appeals. Sadly the infamous Vietnamese National, Chumlong Lemtongthai, had his sentence reduced from 40 to 30 years but no matter, 30 years in an SA prison is a long time and a commendable example has been set. Most rapists in this country don’t get that. A step in the right direction and I for one will quite happily pay my taxes to keep him locked up for those 30 years. Ironically enough, his birthday was on World Rhino day, 22nd September, and I silently wished him a happy one in prison. Our hearts also went out to the now 90 plus elephants that were poisoned to death with cyanide in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. One of the worst poaching disasters in their history and sadly the repercussions of this disgusting act are far from over. Well done again to the authorities for catching 8 poachers involved and already slapping down 16 year jail terms on 2 of them.

We’ve been busy promoting our card campaign and the cause for most of September and will continue to do so around the country, stepping it up a bit as well. Blaauwklippen Family Market, Stellenbosch Slow Market, Bay Harbour Market, Fourways Farmers Market (JHB), Bryanston Organic Market(JHB), Gardens Shopping Centre and the Neelsie at Stellenbosch University have been very kind in allowing us some space to promote our campaign. Not to mention MFM for some radio time. Response has been fantastic and we thank everyone who has gotten involved and made a difference so far. We will continually update Facebook and Twitter, letting you know where we’ll be next.

The trade debate rages on and some harsh words are being spoken from all corners and I encourage everyone to read up about it. If you’re not aware of what I’m going on about, the Department of Environmental Affairs has approved a proposal that will be put forward for consideration at the next CITES CoP17 in 2016. Basically they want to open the trade and want CITES to give them permission. However, whether you are pro or anti trade, I urge you to consider the arguments of the other side and become more informed about why they have chosen their specific path in trying to save the rhino.

A while ago I was challenged in a letter to organise a competition that would identify the best anti-trade paper, based on economics and maths, and offer a cash prize. The reason for this is that most pro-trade models are based on economics and they were far more proactive in producing them than the antitrade lobby. It is these models that helped influence the DEA’s decision to open the trade. This is an excerpt from my response which will hopefully explain where we stand on this whole debate:

“The trade debate comes up often and as an NGO, I often wonder what role we should play with regard to the debate. Do we take a stance or not? Is it better for us to focus on the fundraising because let’s be honest, funds are still going to be desperately needed regardless of the trade outcome. Or at least for a couple of years still. Will taking a strong anti-trade stance aid our efforts in fundraising or will it make us appear as more of an activist organisation. As with many conservation issues there is far too much sentiment, far too few facts and not enough informed and unbiased decision making. The trade issue is no different to me although sentiment might have been a better option this time round. We at 12Hours all believe that opening the trade will be disastrous.

So true that the pro-trade lobby was far more proactive in this debate and now the anti-lobby has some serious catching up to do and hopefully change some important minds. We have taken your suggestion to heart and are discussing the possibility of doing something like that in the future. It certainly would be a different approach. I would however like a study of this to be done from an unbiased point of view as opposed to one that attempts to prove a specific outcome. Which is what the pro-traders have done and why, to me, their models lack credibility. I am not an economist but believe that when all facts and figures are considered, then any genuine economic study will show the pro-trade argument to be wrong. In other words a weighted study in favour of anti-trade is not necessary and will only reduce the strength of the argument. Somewhere in the middle there are the facts and I believe the facts will be in favour of anti-trade. Unfortunately it is obvious that people don’t make informed decisions and will accept anything that is put in front of them.

Anyways, there is so much more to the trade than economics and for me there is a huge moral issue at stake here as well. Wildlife around the world is crying out for us to simply make the right decision for once. We have an opportunity to do this and if we can win this war without once again resorting to greed, then it will not only be a victory for rhinos but for all endangered animals as well. Not to mention a big middle finger to all those who believe they can treat nature as a financial object for their own gain.”

I hope the above settles our feelings and stance in the trade debate. Let’s all be honest here. To understand complex economic models of trade, you need to be, well, an economist. Or at least have some serious financial and economic savvy. We’re not talking about simple supply and demand graphs here. To understand a moral issue however is a lot simpler, you just have to be human.

I leave you with that thought.