Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Polarity between the uplisting of Polar Bears

Polar bear cubs triplet!

To uplist the Polar Bears from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I, or not?

Today, I will be sharing about the uplisting of the polar bears from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I. I'll be exploring whether or not the uplisting of the polar bears would actually benefit the remaining populations.

Some background information!
Currently, there are about 20~25000 polar bears worldwide, which are split into 19 seperate populations.

The conservation status of the polar bears varies greatly between countries.
  • InternationalVulnerable
  • Canada (COSEWIC): Special Concern
  • Greenland / Denmark: Vulnerable
  • Norway: Vulnerable
  • Russia: Uncertain, Rare, and Rehabilitated/Rehabilitating
  • United StatesThreatened

Annually, about 800 polar bears are harvested, primarily for subsistence purposes.


Recently, there has been a push to uplist polar bears from Appendix II to Appendix I on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). However, at the 15th CITES (CITES CoP15), the proposal to list the polar
bear was defeated (48 countries voted in support of the listing, 62countries opposed, and 11 abstained).

Under Appendix I of CITES, trade in specimens of these species must be subject to particularly strict regulation in order not to endanger further their survival and must only be authorized in exceptional circumstances.


Is there really a need for the uplisting of the polar bears? 

In my opinion, I feel that there is no need for an uplisting of polar bears from appendix II to appendix I. Simply because the biggest threat to polar bears is climate change and its impact on their habitat. Polar bears are generally well-managed and illegal hunting of polar bears does not appear to be a concern for most polar bear range! Besides, although there is indeed a sale of polar bear parts, it is only as an added benefit of the subsistence hunt. In most cases trade in these items does not appear to be the primary incentive for the hunt, but a by-product of the hunt.
Additionally, the hunting of polar bears plays an important cultural role in the native indigenous people. 

Hence, the ban of international trade of polar bears, through the uplisting of polar bears to Appendix I, will not eliminate the harvesting of these animals.

With global warming and climate change exacerbating the rate of loss of habitats for these animals, a precautionary approach is necessary to ensure that primarily commercial trade does not compound the threats posed to the species by loss of habitat. However, at this current point, it cannot be certain whether or not the ban on internation trade of polar bears could ultimately benefit the remaining populations of polar bears. 

If only sticky tape works...

References, (2014). Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov. 2014]., (2014). Polar bear status, distribution & population. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov. 2014].

Parsons, E. and L. Cornick (2011). "Sweeping scientific data under a polar bear skin rug: The IUCN and the proposed listing of polar bears under CITES Appendix I." Marine Policy 35(5): 729-731.

Shadbolt, T., G. York and E. Cooper (2012). "Icon on Ice: International Trade and Management of Polar Bears." TRAFFIC, North America and WWF-Canada. Vancouver, BC.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

BlackMarket Fish

Trafficking of wildlife does not only include the illegal trading of big, iconic or exotic animals. It also includes illegal harvesting and trading of other small wildlife. 

Instead of the usual iconic animals, today's post will be about the illegal poaching of smaller, less iconic animals.

File: The Obama administration announced new measures to combat black-market fishing and protect ocean ecosystems on Tuesday.
File: The Obama administration announced new measures to combat black-market fishing and protect ocean ecosystems on Tuesday.

Black market fishing is estimated to cost the global economy by about $23 billion annually! Black market fishing is the unregulated and unreported fishing.

Illegal fishing has led to the collapse of wild fisheries, where fishes are harvested at rate that is way higher than its restoration rate!

This has led to a dwindling fish stocks, and increased competition between law-abiding fishermen and the illegal poachers. Some fishermen, unable to cope with the competition, will eventually ignore the fishing quotas that are set to allow fish population to rebound. Illegal fishing has also led to the decreased in prices of fish, where they overstock the demands for fish! Fishermen that are dependent on fishing for their livelihood suffered the greatest impact. 
With majority of commercial fish stocks over-exploited and collapsed, many countries turned to fish aquaculture as an alternative! However, fish aquaculture has several environmental impacts as well. For instance, escaped fish can spread diseases to endemic species! Additionally, a lot of food is required to feed the fishes in the aquaculture! Ironically, most of these fish food are made from wild-caught fish!

Illegal poaching of wildlife, whether iconic or not, can have grave and adverse impacts on the environment. Illicit animal trading does not just affect endemic species and the environment, but could also impact us just as gravely and adversely.   

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing.


Exposure, (2014). WWF - Chile on Exposure. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Nov. 2014]., (2014). EU Clears Five States Following their Improvements in Fighting Illegal Fishing, While Red-cardi. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Nov. 2014].

Sunday, 2 November 2014

From Poacher to Protector

In my previous post, I've talked about engaging the communities that are nearest to the wildlife as part of wildlife conservation efforts. Today, I'll be sharing a success story, about how poacher turned himself in, and converted from a poacher into a protector.

Basumatary says he has remained most proud of his work in rehabilitating two clouded leopards. Photo credit: IFAW-WTI

"For over five years, 33-year-old Maheshwar Basumatary, a member of the indigenous Bodo community, made a living by killing wild animals in the protected forests of the Manas National Park, a tiger reserve, elephant sanctuary and UNESCO World Heritage Site that lies on the India-Bhutan border. Then one morning in 2005, Basumatary walked into a police check-post and surrendered his gun. Since then, the young man has been spending his time taking care of abandoned and orphaned rhino and leopard cubs."

In my opinion, this has got to be one of the best solutions for wildlife conservation. There is very little meaning in telling people what to do if they do not have any other alternatives. For instance, there is very little point in telling poor hunters that they should stop poaching because the animals that they are poaching are endangered. Why should they stop? It does not matter to the poachers whether or not the animals are endangered, but rather, what matter to them is whether they will be able to provide food for their family for the next day. 

Hence, it is very important to provide viable alternatives for these hunters. Currently, there are several "Poachers-to-Protectors" programmes, where they recruit and train ex-poachers to be park rangers, providing these ex-poachers with regular and dependable income. Besides converting poachers to rangers, alternative livelihood could be provided to these poachers, such as sustainable farming or beekeeping. 

"Engaging locals like Basumatary into wildlife protection and conservation is an effective way to curb wildlife crimes such as poaching, smuggling and the illegal sale of animal parts, according to Maheshwar Dhakal, an ecologist with Nepal's ministry of environment and soil conservation." 

Botswana Defence Force members march with school children in the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

Locals stand to gain the most from wildlife conservation, since they are the ones that are directly dependent on their environment for their livelihood. Hence, for wildlife conservation to succeed, it is essential that we have the support of the locals. 

References, (2014). Africa: Curbing the Illegal Wildlife Trade Crucial to Preserving Biodiversity. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2014]., (2014). Zambia: Poachers-turned-Protectors – Wildlife Conservation Society - Wildlife Conservation Society. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2014].

Monday, 27 October 2014

African Elephant Summit

World Governments Make a Stand Against Ivory Trading

Have you heard about the African Elephant Summit

Read more about it at

To summarise the summit, there are "14 Urgent Measures" in the African Elephant Summit to halt and reverse the trend in illegal killing of elephants and the illegal ivory trade.

I would like to pick out a few of the Urgent Measures which, in my opinion, are slightly more interesting.

Urgent Measure 9
"Design and carry out national studies and public awareness programs, aimed at all 
sectors, which include information on the ramifications of illegal killing of elephants and 
the illegal ivory trade on the economy, national security, public safety and the ecosystem 
services elephants provide."

Urgent Measure 11
"Develop and implement strategies to eliminate the illegal trade in ivory and use
evidence-based campaigns for supply and demand reduction that use targeted strategies
including, where appropriate, government-led approaches, to influence consumer 
behaviour. "

These two "Urgent Measures" targets the consumer, and they are the measures that I agree the most with! Indeed, education and awareness campaign targetted at the public would definitely help against illicit wildlife trafficking! As the saying goes, "Knowledge is Power". With knowledge, perhaps more people will understand the need for protecting wildlife and their environment. In my opinion, awareness and education are likely to curb the demand for such illegal wildlife products.

Urgent Measure 12
"In African elephant range States, engage communities living with elephants as active 
partners in their conservation by supporting community efforts to advance their rights 
and capacity to manage and benefit from wildlife and wilderness."

Besides targetting the consumers, the next most important player to target will be the people living nearest to the wildlife, since they are the ones could are directly affect the animals. As mentioned in the previous post, many people tend to blame the poor for the overexploitation of natural resources. However, we have to take into account their underlying reasons for the exploitation. Hence, by engaging the communities, we could potentially curb one of the root cause of the illegal hunting of elephants.    

Additional News~

More reasons to rejoice! 
Additional Hope for the Wildlife! 

A reason for Hope (:

Last year, 5 African Nations, Gabon, Botswana, Chad, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, signed up for the Elephant Protection Initiative in London in February! 

Read more about it at Elephant Protection Initiative.


Anon, (2014). [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2014].

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Killer Looks?

It is not difficult to find videos of cute animals like this online, especially with an increasing use of social media. In my opinion, such videos could potentially exacerbate the current situation of illegal wildlife trafficking. On the other hand, these videos could help with illegal trafficking, by drawing attention and creating awareness for themselves.

For such videos to be helpful against illegal wildlife trafficking, the mindset of the audience must change. Instead of "Oooo this is so cute I wish I had one as a pet!", to "Oooo this is is cute I wish I could do something to help protect this animal!".  This boils down to the need for proper education and awareness of wildlife trading against illegal wildlife trading.

Its not all gloom and doom for these cute endangered wildlife though!


Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, reported that "Nine of the leading online retail sites in China, including Alibaba, Tencent, Sina, Airmedia, SMG and agreed earlier this month not to provide opportunities for promotion or trade of illegal wildlife products on their platforms."

One small step for man, a giant leap for Wildlife~

Friday, 17 October 2014

It is exactly 1 month since my first post. Hence, today's blogpost shall be a summary of what I have learnt about illegal wildlife trafficking. 

Drivers of Illegal Wildlife Trade
1. Medicinal Purposes
2. Culture and Tradition
3. Livelihood of Poor
    - High profit, Low Risk
4. Luxurious Items; Indicator of Wealth
    - Creation of demand by the Affluent  
5. Corrupted Personnel
    - Trafficking of animals requires the movement of the organisms across countries. Corrupted personnel increases the ease to move the organisms across.
6. Banning of wildlife trade
   - Illegalisation of wildlife products led to a surge in prices for such products, increasing incentives for poachers.

Explanation for ecological deterioration tends to blame the poor. 
Even though majority of the poaching and hunting of wildlife are done by the poor, I feel that it is not right to blame the poor at all for the rise in illegal wildlife trafficking! In most places where illegal wildlife poaching is very prevelant, jobs are scarce, and even if you have a job, most people are not paid enough. Given this situation, it is hard to blame the people for turning to the environment to supplement their income to provide for their family. 
For example, when a family member falls sick, it is hard for people living in poverty to afford for medical bills. However, by hunting in the forest, say for a rhinoceros horn, the person could easily sell their kill, which would then be used to pay for their medical bills. 

Hence, instead of always blaming the poor for the exploitation of wildlife, one should consider what is the underlying reasons for their exploitations.

Commodification of wildlife could help protect or destroy nature.

A change in perception in human will change what is considered as a resource. Its the resourcefulness of humans that decides what is a resource. When wildlife ceases to be part of our human resources, wildlife trafficking would naturally disappear.

Friday, 10 October 2014

How Beauty killed the Beast

Instead of the normal discussions I have on my blog, the blogpost today will be showing a list of a few animals that are classified as near extinction, as a result of illegal poaching.


An excellent exmaple of how beauty killed the beast. Famed for their beautiful fur coat, the Amur Leopards were poached extensively. There are now  fewer than 30 of them left in the wild.

Hawksbill turtle are classified as crictically endangered. There is a large amount of illegal trade in their shells and the products derived from it.

There are fewer than 5000 of these black rhinoceros left in the wild. They are poached for their horns as a trophy, or for "remedies" for several illnesses.
There are fewer than 400 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild. According to Traffic, illegal poaching is responsible for over 78% of Tiger deaths!

A common ingredient for Traditional Chinese Medicince. Over the last 10 years, the population of Saiga Antelopes declined by over 90%, mainly due to poaching for the trade of horns.

Sahafary Sportive Lemur

Hunted extensively for wild bush meat and traded illegally as pets.
Wild population of the Lemur numbers no more than 50.

Beautiful creatures. Is it too late to start saving them?