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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.

Australia…No Domestic Trade!

Despite what many Australians might believe, elephant ivory and rhino horn is sold in Australia.

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) released their “Under the Hammer” report, exposing how much ivory and rhino horn is being sold through auction rooms.

The report identified that only 2.7 per cent of items inspected at Australian auction rooms had ‘provenance’ documentation which provides the most useful information to determine the origin and legality of an item.

Items for sale in Chapel Street, Melbourne.

At least three rhinos are brutally slaughtered daily and one elephant is killed every 15 minutes. The South African government released rhino poaching statistics for 2016, reporting 1,054 rhinos has been killed.

A privately funded Great Elephant Census states that African elephant populations have declined by 30 per cent over the last seven years.

The Chinese Government announced it will close its ivory market by the end of 2017 and it’s time Australia does too.

Print out the Speak Out Letter and post to the Minister. Details are on the letter and you don’t have to be living in Australia.

In September 2016 the Australian Government was asked to enact a total ban on the domestic trade of elephant ivory and rhino horn in a communiqué that was hand delivered to Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg.

Signed by over 50 conservation organisations from around the world, the ban would be a move to ensure Australia commits to playing its role in saving elephants and rhinos from extinction in the wild in the near future.

The communique was presented by Australian NGO founders Donalea Patman (For the Love of Wildlife) and Dr Lynn Johnson (Breaking The Brand) together with Fiona Gordon of New Zealand based environmental firm Gordon Consulting and Rebecca Keeble of IFAW.

Ms Patman has been disappointed with the response from Minister Frydenberg and the apparent confusion about who is responsible for dealing with illegal ivory or rhino horn.

“The response was that Australia is unlikely to be driving the elephant poaching or international illegal trade,” Ms Patman said.

“On top of that, ivory was found for sale in Western Australia in December 2016 which didn’t have the required documentation (shocking to see that ivory appears in their catalogue again in February).

It was first reported to the Australian Federal Police who then referred it to State Police, who then passed it to Border Control,” she said.

“There is clearly confusion about who is responsible and a lack of political will to demonstrate leadership on this issue,” she said.

Items for auction in Mt Lawley in December 2016.

The threat of extinction of these iconic species remains high. In November last year Vietnam hosted the third International Wildlife Trade Conference in Hanoi.

The Duke of Cambridge and President of United for Wildlife, Prince William attended the conference and delivered a speech on tackling illegal wildlife trade. In his speech he stated “A betting man would still bet on extinction”.

Follow the campaign on Facebook and use the following hashtags #NoDomesticTrade #EyesOnIvory #RhinosMatter #NotOnMyWatch

Print out these posters, take a selfie with it and post to our Facebook page…show Australia that it’s time. The Australian Government needs the public to show that it cares deeply about saving these iconic African animals.

Print out the Speak Out Letter and post to the Minister. Details are on the letter and you don’t have to be living in Australia.

 

The communique that was hand delivered to the Minister in September 2016. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional press:

Financial Review, May 2018

SA Breaking News 13 Nov 2017

Lowvelder Press 13 November 2017

SA Breaking News

15 Minute News

Traveller 24

Netwerk 24

The Mercury