The first short story I wrote for this degree was called The Last Supper. I blogged about it a few months ago (see They Still Gas Dogs and Cats Don’t They?). I submitted it to a couple of places, but it has not been published yet and it needs work, although I am proud of the first draft.
This semester I will write a feature length article; it is inevitable that the topic is wildlife crime, and specifically, wildlife trafficking. People who know me are not surprised.
What follows is the beginning of a proposal I wrote last week. I also discovered that Angelina Jolie will be directing a movie about ivory poaching (see the BBC for the article). I admit, this inspired me a great deal.
Wildlife Trafficking on the Rise
Elephants. Rhinos. Tigers. Trees. Yes, trees, too. High profile species threatened with extinction. Wildlife trafficking is in the top five illicit commerce activities in the world, which include drugs, counterfeiting, human trafficking, and weapons. Estimates of its value range between $10 and $20 billion annually (South and Wyatt, 2011), and a more recent estimate by Carroll (2013) is between $8 and $10 billion a year. As with all illegal activities it is not possible to know the true proceeds of crime.
The poaching crisis in Africa has reached unprecedented levels, with more than 30,000 African elephants slaughtered last year alone. In just ten years, 62% of Africa’s forest elephants have been lost. The most recent analysis by the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) shows illegal trade in elephant ivory to be at its highest level in two decades (Allen, 2013).
Global awareness and government support was, and is, headline news in 2014. From the US Government committing to a national strategy to the European Commission launching EU Biodiversity for Life (B4Life) funding opportunities, the media have reported at length about the high profile species. A search of the web for “wildlife crime” results in hundreds of hits including news articles, research papers, organisation reports, funding opportunities and requests, blog articles, as well as numerous agencies and volunteer group websites.
Even when laws are changed, attitudes take much longer to shift, and some of the same issues remain unresolved, for example:
The White House… increas[ed] cooperation among a half-dozen or so federal agencies, toughening laws and enhancing enforcement. But nowhere does it specifically commit to increasing the thin ranks of inspectors and agents at the ports (Frears, 2014).
There are two particular issues that make deterrence difficult:
- Punishments for wildlife crimes are not severe enough to deter those involved; the profit and the global demand for illegal products remains high: “a single rhino horn may have a street value of roughly $450,000” (Carroll, 2013).
- Consumers continue to demand products even after being educated about the impact on the environment, how it supports wars, or the inefficacy of rhino horn as a medicinal agent, for example.
WildLeaks – Anonymous Tips Welcomed
This week’s assignment is to research an organisation’s origins and write a summary of it. I chose WildLeaks because it fits directly with my feature topic and because I have this crazy idea that this is what I am supposed to help with next. WildLeaks only started in February 2014 and already by June they had 24 tips (Carrington, 2014).
I even sent an email to Andrea Crosta (the co-founder of this and the Elephant Action League). I encourage you to check them both out. Worthwhile causes. More to come.
- Allan, Crawford, “Exploring Scalable Technologies,” Proceedings from the Protecting Threatened Wildlife in Africa with Technology and Training Forum, October 31, 2013, Washington, DC; The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, World Wildlife Fund, and African Parks, 2013.
Carrington, Damian, ‘WildLeaks Attracts Major Wildlife Crime Leads in First Three Months’, The Guardian, 12 June 2014
- Carroll, Richard W., “Protecting Africa’s Elephants: Current Threats and Responses, “Proceedings from the Protecting Threatened Wildlife in Africa with Technology and Training Forum, October 31, 2013, Washington, DC; The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, World Wildlife Fund, and African Parks, 2013.
- CITES, ‘Does Biodiversity Matter for Development? EU’s Development Cooperation Launches Its B4Life Flagship Initiative’, 2014 http://cites.org/eng/b4life_15102014
- Fears, Darryl, ‘Overwhelmed U.S. Port Inspectors Unable to Keep up with Illegal Wildlife Trade’, The Washington Post, 17 October 2014
- South, N. and Wyatt, T. (2011) ‘Comparing the Illicit Trades in Wildlife and Drugs: An exploratory study’, Deviant Behaviour 32(6): 538-561
- United States Government, National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking