On May 24th, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations convened to discuss the mounting poaching crisis in Africa. Moderated by Senator John Kerry, the committee brought together prominent experts in the field to shine a light on the widespread ivory and rhino horn trade. WildAid’s unique approach to reduce demand for these products in Asia was cited as an “exemplary model”, critical to reversing the poaching epidemic.
According to African Wildlife Foundation, poachers have claimed more than 900 rhinos in the past year, with rhino poaching increasing by 3000% in South Africa between 2007 and 2011. Last year was also coined “annus horribilis” for elephants as a record high of 23 metric tons of illegal ivory were seized, accounting for some 2,500 elephants killed for their tusks.
Senator John Kerry opened up the forum by asking the panel of expert witnesses, “What is causing this resurgence in poaching and what can be done to combat it?”
Calling for urgent action, Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants, led discussion with a clear-cut outline of the poaching epidemic: demand in China is driving the escalating poaching crisis in Africa and this demand exceeds the supply. Fed by large networks of organized crime, China’s demand for ivory and rhino horn has created security threats, led to illegal killing on a massive scale, and has undermined conservation efforts and good governance.
Calling on new ways of thinking outside the box, Hamilton identified three key approaches necessary to tackle the poaching crisis: 1) confronting elephant poaching in the field; 2) controlling the transit points and improving mechanisms to track ivory and rhino horn; and 3) reducing excessive demand.
Borrowing WildAid’s strong and simple message, “When the buying stops, the killing can too,” Hamilton emphasized the need for China to step up as a leader in conservation in Africa in order to curb demand.
Tom Cardamone, the Managing Director of the Global Financial Integrity, and John Scanlon, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Flora (CITES), also provided testimony.
To watch the full hearing, visit http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/ivory-and-insecurity_the-global-implications-of-poaching-in-africa.
Written by Courtney Quirin