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Government looks to overturn 25 year ban on the importation of birds into Australia

It is difficult to comprehend why a submission process was initiated given we are experiencing a global pandemic due to the trade in wildlife…to proceed with an undertaking to overturn a 25 year ban on the importation of birds.

https://www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/risk-analysis/animal/psittacine-birds

Over the last 18 months (and more) we have been educating the government on how flawed the existing trade system is. A system that hasn’t been updated since the 70s, doesn’t integrate with customs, is mostly paper-based with loopholes you can drive a Mac truck through! And so why even entertain the idea of opening up trade?

The following is our submission as to why we say NO to overturning the ban.

 

Submission to address import risk for psittacine birds from all countries

Australia has previously permitted the importation of live psittacine birds. However, the policy was suspended in 1995 due to incomplete knowledge of certain diseases of psittacine birds and a lack of suitable methods for testing imported birds for the presence of these diseases.

This ban was enacted in 1995 for a good reason and now there’s overwhelming evidence and reason to keep this ban in place.

  • Pandemic due to the trade in wildlife
  • Legal trade monitoring system that is obsolete and needs modernisation
  • Extinction crisis, driven by over-exploitation for trade purposes
  • Lack of scientific, evidence-based information

Economies are shattered and people’s lives are severely impacted due to the current pandemic being experienced globally and it is attributed to the trade in wildlife. Australia should be commended for calling for global support to investigate the cause of the current virus but in the interim, why isn’t there a moratorium on trade in endangered species, in fact trade in all wildlife until the findings are released?

Whilst WHO investigates the world’s response to Covid-19, we must acknowledge that wet markets in China are just a microcosm of the ever-increasing trade in wildlife. The legal trade in wildlife is one of the most lucrative trades in the world and yet it is managed using a mostly paper-based permit system that hasn’t been updated since the 70’s.

Along with our collaborative partners Nature Needs More, we have met with Ministers, MPs and representatives in the Australian Government (as well as more than 30 signatory countries including the EU) in urgently addressing the flaws in the existing trade system. Modernising this system to deal with current trade volumes and conditions is critical in addressing the trade in psittacine birds.

Along with many other organisations and concerned citizens, we also provided overwhelming evidence at the Parliamentary Inquiry on Law Enforcement into the domestic trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn demonstrating flaws in the legal trade system under CITES and that currently there is no supply chain transparency. Similarly, there is no real-time trade analytics, so any responses to laundering and illegal activity, if it is picked up, is in the main too slow.

There is a desperate need to modernise the trade mechanism that is severely under-resourced, mostly paper-based, doesn’t integrate with customs and lacks traceability and trackability. Until the trade system has been updated (as a start eCITES BaseSolution created by UNCTAD with CITES and the Swiss and Sri Lankan Governments) and rolled out globally, it would be detrimental for multiple reasons in entertaining overturning this ban.

The legal and illegal trade is so intertwined that they are functionally inseparable, to continue trade knowing this would be reckless.

What is also alarming and has been raised with the CITES Secretariate is that source codes on permits are often designated as source code C (captive bred), when research shows that there is no evidence of any captive breeding facilities in the export countries documented. How can we be assured that imported birds aren’t wild caught?

CITES needs to be modernised to cope with the vastly increased volume of the legal trade and to close the loopholes used by the burgeoning illegal trade. This requires a three step approach:

STEP 1

Global roll out of electronic permitting at a cost of US$30 million for all 183 signatory countries before next CITES CoP in 2022

Until a global roll out of electronic permitting, additional trade in wildlife including vulnerable and endangered species should not be considered or granted license.

Whilst Australia does have an electronic permit system, its lack of interoperability or interaction with a global trade system such as eCITES BaseSolution, shows that it isn’t useful in regards to international trade. This was clearly demonstrated with the export of endangered birds from Western Australia to Germany (still under investigation). Even with Australia boasting its sophisticated electronic system, cockatoos were issued permits to be exported from Western Australia to an unscrupulous zoo in Germany with no evidence to clearly prove that the birds weren’t wild caught or that the destination was indeed a proper zoo. If we don’t have processes to alleviate illegally caught wild species, then how can we expect this from countries with no regulators or processes in place? If a global electronic, real-time permit system was in place, then a red flag would have been raised and permits would never have been issued.

STEP 2

Adopt reverse listing approach

In 1981 Australia proposed a reverse listing approach, understanding and exposing the inherent risks in the forming years of CITES. Given business works quarter by quarter and is always miles ahead in creating new markets, the glacially slow response by governments and conservation within the processes of CITES has seen trade grow exponentially. Trade is the 2nd biggest driver of extinction in terrestrial species and the biggest driver in marine species and a new listing approach is long overdue.

The proposal wasn’t accepted in 1981 when there were 700 species listed. Since then the listing has grown to 38,500 species (soon to be a million according to the IPBES Report published last year). Under a reverse listing approach the default position is no commercial trade and the burden of proof that trade is sustainable shifts from governments and NGOs to industry. This does not mean that industry will dictate the framework and criteria for what constitutes ‘ecologically sustainable use’ and what can be traded. Listings would still be subject to a vote at CoP, in line with current process.

STEP 3

Apply a levy on trade

Given the global trade in endangered species is worth US$320 billion a year, a 1-2% levy on trade would significantly help fund the under-resourced trade and enforcement process. In the first instance, a levy (or similar) on industry (importers, not exporters) to cover the cost of rolling out the electronic permit system globally and to create and maintain a real-time reporting system.

 

Zoonotic diseases have and continue to impact humans as demonstrated in the following diagram, but there’s worrying impact on other species. As an example, reported on the 27 August this year the slaughter of more than 340,000 layer hens, plus culling of emus and turkeys as there are three strains of bird flu active at the same time in the state of Victoria resulting in an expected loss of $18 – $23 million affecting six farms. This virus is reported to be particularly virulent and aggressive. Importing birds when it is clear there’s overwhelming fragility amongst avian populations only adds incredible pressure to the existing populations whether they be farmed or wild.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-08-27/emus-and-chickens-being-culled-as-bird-flu-in-victoria-worsens/12601422

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-18/victorian-bird-flu-outbreak-raises-concerns-free-range-farming/12669544

How can the government guarantee that imported birds won’t be released? Catastrophic for our wild species who are already under enormous pressure due to habitat loss, bushfires, weather events, poaching, etc. We are in an extinction event and it is reckless to continue the “business as usual” approach.

What is also requiring attention is the reporting of government and industry-employed ecologists and conservation scientists who have experienced undue modification of reports, blocks on releasing or discussing information in regards to the plight of threatened species. Can we trust that this review will be fair and reasonable or should we wait until there is a national independent watchdog?

Calling for submissions when there’s overwhelming evidence and sentiment for a trade ban given the current climate, is wasting valuable resources not only within the government but in calling on civil society, conservation groups and charities to yet again remind the government to apply the precautionary principle, given the devastating decline in so many species we’re witnessing a catastrophic freefall. We are in an extinction event and how can we alleviate the ever-increasing pressures on wildlife – lifting bans is not one of them.

Many macaws, parrots and cockatoos are listed as endangered, with many extinct due to rapid rates of habitat loss, hunting and exotic pet trade and yet we are entertaining the possibility of reopening trade for psittacine birds…it is mind-blowing.

 

The commodification and consumption of wild species and the natural world has seen humans breach boundaries with devastating consequences, our lack of respect for nature is our own undoing, our ecology in desperate need of respite. If we cannot curb our consumption and the continued trade in every living thing, then it will be our own extinction if we cannot learn from this pandemic and the recent bushfires which have presented a very loud and clear warning.

At the recent 2020 High Level Political Forum all UN Member States recommitted to “protecting wildlife and other living species”, taking action to end cross-border trade in wildlife to be an effective first step towards delivering this commitment.

 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2351989418302312

https://www.traffic.org/news/new-studies-highlight-critical-issues-for-cites-implementation/

Endangered species are legally traded to extinction

Attending CITES (Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species in Wild Flora and Fauna) CoP18 in Geneva in August, along with Nature Needs More we were excited to attend the side event featuring  eCITES BaseSolution electronic permitting which has been developed by UNCTAD with CITES and the Swiss and Sri Lankan Government, with Sri Lanka the first country to implement and trial.

Honoured to be invited to attend the launch of eCITES in Sri Lanka in October 2019 by Minister for Tourism and Wildlife, Hon John Amaratunga. Also attending the launch was the Australian High Commissioner, Victoria Coakley who was incredibly impressed with the presentation and wished to assist with global implementation.

Launch of eCITES Base Solution electronic permitting in Sri Lanka

Now that the system has been implemented, we’re focused on a global roll out before the next CoP which is scheduled to be held in Costa Rica in 2022. We’ve been assured that training and implementation can take between 6-12 weeks, which makes this absolutely doable to meet that deadline. The cost is US$150,000 per country – US$30 million for all 183 signatory countries.

The timing is critical given the pandemic we’re experiencing and the ongoing evidence that supports global action given that:

  1. 2019 report (IPBES) confirmed direct exploitation for trade is the second biggest threat to species survival.
  2. Since CITES came into force in 1975, the convention itself has had only one review and that was in 1994. Any business or industry that doesn’t reflect on how it needs to evolve to adapt to the changing, external conditions would undoubtedly become ineffective (if in fact it managed to survive).
  3. It has not been modernised since the 1970s, almost all CITES parties still use a paper-based system that doesn’t integrate with customs. There is no traceability of shipments from source to destination
  4. Without traceability and transparency, there is no proof of sustainability and the sustainable-use model is the basis for the legal trade.
  5. In a world where big data rules, no major steps have been taken to digitise the trade in endangered species.
  6. When the legal trade was estimated to be worth US$320 billion as far back as 2012 and it would cost only US$30 million to roll out an electronic system to all 183 CITES signatory parties, why hasn’t this been done – it has been talked about for nearly a decade.

Our work was featured by Africa Geographic.

CITES – it’s time to fix the basics

During the time addressing the domestic trade in Australia in relation to elephant ivory and rhino horn, For the Love of Wildlife and Nature Needs More have become very concerned about the existing CITES trade permit and monitoring system. In addition, the evidence presented at the Parliamentary Inquiry into the unregulated domestic trade last year in Australia provided a platform for further shocking information to be exposed.

Attached is a letter that we sent to the Mr David Morgan in September 2018 as a result of what has been revealed, knowing we can no longer remain silent and action must be taken. At the time David Morgan was performing the administrative duties of the CITES Secretary General and we decided not to wait for the new CITES’ Secretary General to be appointed, due to there being no indication of how long this would take and it was appearing to drag out.

With the reverse listing and levy approach we are asking CITES signatories to consider before CoP18 as we feel that this offers a potential solution to fixing the significant problems and loopholes in the current legal trade system that is enabling illegal items to be laundered into the legal market place.

Please note, in sending this letter, this does not mean that we endorse the sustainable use model and the fact that a trade body is the key facilitator of managing the world’s precious flora and fauna. In sending this letter we acknowledge that this trade based approach will not be changed to a conservation focused approach in the short-term. As such, what we have currently needs to evolve to implement trade and control systems that are transparent, tamper-proof, appropriately resourced and fit-for-purpose.

In introducing this proposal to your local politician (wherever you are in the world) may we offer the following as a foundation for your email to assist in gaining their full attention. If you wish to do more, then please follow up with a meeting and share what you know in educating them in knowing the critical demise of the world’s majestic and iconic species. If you are not knocking on your local MP’s door, then their attention will be with the people who are! Wildlife requires action and please do not feel intimidated by a meeting – your local MP is there to represent YOU and your concerns.

You can also send the information to your local paper – MP’s respond to local news.

Thank you, on behalf of the animals and the natural world who need you now.

 

Dear ….

The last 18 months has seen an increased global focus on wildlife crime, as new estimates regarding the massive scale of illegal trafficking were published in the World Customs Organisation 2017 Illicit Trade Report. This report highlighted the estimated profit from the illegal trade in flora and fauna to be between $91- 258 billion USD per year, and stated, this is an amount that is, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, growing at 2-3 times the pace of the global economy. The report concluded, environmental crime is now the fourth largest transnational crime, after drug trafficking, counterfeiting and people trafficking. International organized crime uses the systemic loopholes in the legal trade system which is regulated by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In addition to the illegal trade, in 2012 a UK government paper highlighted the value of the legal trade in flora and fauna to be $320 billion USD per year.

In addition to systemic loopholes, CITES now lists more than 35,000 species for trade restrictions, making identification and enforcement an impossible task for national law enforcement and customs bodies. Within the CITES framework the only solution to this escalating problem is to change the listing regime to default to a ‘reverse listing’ mode, i.e. listing only species in which trade is permitted. This is not a new idea, in fact it was first put forward by Australia in 1981 to the CITES Conference of Parties in New Dehli. At the time only 700 species were listed for trade restrictions and it was perhaps unsurprising that the proposal failed to garner sufficient support.

Set up as a non-self-executing treaty, CITES today lacks the funding to help poorer countries to implement effective electronic permitting systems that are integrated with global customs systems, which is essential to close the loopholes exploited by the traffickers. We propose that a small trade levy on the $320 billion USD per year trade conducted legally under CITES rules could help raise the necessary funds and make the overall system tamper-proof, traceable and transparent.

Only national governments (and the EU), which are signatories to CITES, can propose the necessary changes to fix the flaws in the current system and strike decisively against the illegal trade. Attached to this email is a copy of a letter sent to the CITES Secretariat in September 2018. As we are one of the 183 signatory parties, I request that the reverse listing approach proposed be considered by our government in the run-up to and as part of the agenda of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) in Sri Lanka in May 2019.

Yours sincerely

 

…………………………………………………..

Open Letter regarding CITES Issues

(include the above link in your email)

We’d love to know which countries are active, so please let us know as we’d love to keep a track of how many people are getting on board. Also feel free to email Peter Lanius of Nature Needs More if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask!

 

The Journey Home & Return To Earth

Melbourne Elephant Ivory and Rhino Horn Crush Epilogue

Donalea Patman, Founding Director, For the Love of Wildlife

 

For the Love of Wildlife has taken very seriously its commitment to the #MelbourneCrush and #NoDomesticTrade campaign. While the act of destroying elephant ivory and rhino horn items aims to show that the only value they have is on a living animal, importantly, we must consider that these items represent the death of thousands of elephants and rhinos.

#MelbourneCrush held in Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne on World Wildlife Day, 2018. Jason Wood MP destroying ivory surrendered by the Australian Government to be #Gone4Good.

Elephants are incredible creatures with strong social structures and personalities. Just like us, they have intricate family systems.  Rhinos are as ancient as time, yet there are just 27,000 rhinos left in the wild today. These sensitive beings are fast disappearing before our very eyes.

On Saturday 3 March 2018, Australia marked World Wildlife Day with a powerful message about the importance of these majestic animals, by destroying elephant ivory and rhino horn.

Understandably, we have being considering what the epilogue must be for the items being crushed.

A heart-felt invitation has been received from internationally celebrated artist and Founder of the Human Elephant Foundation, Andries Botha, for the crushed ivory and horn, of these elephants and rhinos, to take the journey home and be returned to the earth in the land that they were born. The crushed items will be buried beneath a bronze memorial Andries is creating to honour Dr Ian Player and his conservation partner, Magqubu Ntombela.

Dr Ian Player with his dear friend and conservation partner, Magqubu Ntombela.

Andries was a very dear and close friend of Dr Ian Player who passed in 2015. For the Love of Wildlife is both honoured and humbled by Andries’ invitation, for these elephants and rhinos to complete their journey home.

“It is, in my opinion vitally significant to bring the crushed rhino horn and elephant tusk home to the ancestral lands of these ancient creatures, where not only their bodies exist as essential components of our ecosystems, but where their ancestral presence and voices originate.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finish with a message from Andries.

We from the Human Elephant Foundation commend and support For the Love of Wildlife Ltd and the Australian supporters of the Melbourne Crush event.

It is critical that countries who are a part of the wildlife traffic economy take a courageous stand in support of wildlife that is now particularly vulnerable, as poachers, organised crime syndicates, corrupt governments and private and corporate business become more bold in their commodification of wild life products. It is imperative that we stand for these endangered animals. 

It is, in my opinion, vitally significant to bring the crushed rhino horn and elephant tusk home to the ancestral lands of these ancient creatures, where not only their bodies exist as essential components of our ecosystems, but where their ancestral presence and voices originate.

We are honoured to take custodianship of the crushed remains of these animals, to bury them beneath a monumental memorial sculpture soon to be erected to honour Magqubu Ntombela and Dr Ian Player, who saved the White Rhino from extinction in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and to repatriate them to the land they belong to.

A maquette of the memorial.

Andries Botha, South African Sculptor and Founder, Human Elephant Foundation.