Australia…we have blood on our hands

Australian filmmakers Augusta Miller and Michael Dahlstrom are backing a call on the Australian Government to ban the sale of ivory and rhino horn in Australia.

The pair joined forces with conservation group For the Love of Wildlife to create a social media commercial driving home a message that Australia has blood on its hands whilst allowing trade in ivory and rhino horn. It comes ahead of the outcome of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia’s ivory and rhino horn trade.

Miller said she felt compelled to do something to make a difference when she learned these items could still be sold in Australia.

“Like most Australians I had no idea that it’s still legal to sell ivory and rhino horn. When I found out I felt overwhelmed by a desire to do something about it.

“It’s despicable. It needs to stop. It’s the only ethical choice,” she said.

Dahlstrom agreed with the need to end the trade to ensure the survival of two of the world’s most iconic animals which are now facing extinction.

“It’s unfathomable that we’re allowing this trade to continue when one elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory, and a rhino every eight hours for its horn.

“Unless our government takes action to end it, we’ve all got blood on our hands,” he said.

Miller’s mother, actress Sandy Gore, provided the voiceover for the commercial after hearing about the parliamentary inquiry into the trade.

“In the 1970s I was gifted two ivory bracelets. At the time I was in my early 20’s and had no concept of the degree of devastation these items had caused for elephants.

“I can’t change what happened to those elephants but I can do something now, however small, to give back and say enough is enough,” she said.

In March this year the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement launched the inquiry into Australia’s ivory and rhino horn trade. Evidence has been heard from the Department of Environment, non-government organisations, antiques and auction industry, Customs and online selling platforms including Facebook.

While the importing and exporting of ivory and rhino horn is regulated, it remains legal to buy and sell domestically.

For the Love of Wildlife has been working closely with Federal MP Jason Wood to end Australia’s ivory and rhino horn trade. The group has released shocking footage of antique dealers selling ivory they can’t determine the age of and advising customers how to illegally smuggle it out of the country.

Founding Director, Donalea Patman said damning evidence of the extent of wildlife trafficking in Australia had been presented through the inquiry and that there is overwhelming support to ban the ivory and rhino horn trade.

“It’s naively assumed any ivory and rhino horn in Australia must have entered the country legally, yet we’ve seen that the systems used to regulate international trade such as the CITES permit system and trade database have major shortfalls,” she said.

“Through the inquiry we’ve heard Australians are ordering ‘kill on demand’ for ivory and rhino horn from Tanzania and Kenya. We also heard of a case in Australia where a trafficker was caught with several rhino horns, ivory and cash, but was never prosecuted despite a water tight case.

“Traffickers already have a perception of wildlife crime being a low-risk, high-reward activity and Australia perpetuates this,” Patman said.

In response to those who believe Australia’s trade may be small compared to countries like China or Vietnam, Patman says the true volume of Australia’s trade is unknown.

“We’ve witnessed thousands of items for sale across just a handful of stores and online platforms, and in all of these cases, there wasn’t any documentation to prove an item’s age or legality. At best, sellers guess the age of items based on visual appearance.

“As long as our government allows for a legal domestic trade, we’ll continue providing opportunities for traffickers to launder illegal ivory and rhino horn into our legal domestic market,” she said.

“It makes us complicit in the poaching crisis and it’s a responsibility the Australian Government cannot ignore.

“We’re deeply touched and incredibly grateful to Augusta, Michael and their team for creating such a powerful ad with a message that we know will hit home for all Australians,” she said.

The ad can be seen at fortheloveofwildlife.org.au

In April this year the UK Government announced its ban on the domestic sale of ivory in a bid to help protect elephants. The move came after a public consultation process where more than 60,000 people showed their support to end the trade.