By Stephen Palos (SUCo-SA Vice-Chair)
As the all-pervasive influence of BINGOs (Big International NGOs) continues to infiltrate the CITES structures and individual member states (Parties) so the continuum away from science-based decision making persists.
The hypocrisy that flows from this dynamic brings no shame to those party representatives speaking against range states who desperately need the access to markets for the species they successfully protect, produce and harvest and in many instances where the criteria for a CITES Appendix listing is clearly not met, either for the population entirely or for large portions of the population within able and well-run range states.
The BINGO effect has turned CITES into a “winner takes all” game, where the interests of conservation give way to the vagaries of emotion-driven rhetoric such as “commercialisation is evil” and “profit is bad”.
The irony is apparent particularly when one looks at a block of West African states, supported by Kenya from that continent’s east, who steadfastly peddle a harsh anti-utilisation agenda on every type of fauna, especially those of so-called “charismatic” status which they themselves have done such shocking work of preserving.
And yet, while they will insist that the legal trade of these fauna from the proven successful Southern African range states would enable a parallel illegal trade, which they argue is the constraint that causes their own failures, they then argue exactly opposite is the case with the stockpiles of their “charismatic” timber, mostly of the threatened Rosewood species!
Generally, Africans are well versed in the workings of nature. They live close to or within it and rely heavily on it for sustenance and also pay the highest prices of conflicts with it. Why would this block be so “well versed” and resolute then, on these issues?
Another piece of the puzzle, which may help explain this dynamic, is that same block standing as a resolute unified voice, again against the southern African states and many others from around the developing world, against stronger inclusion of local community groups and the consideration of livelihood issues into/within the CITES structures.
Is it coincidence that within biodiversity rich nations the poverty statistics per-capita tend to be higher amongst countries following strict anti-utilisation regimes when compared to poverty stats of more pro-utilisation ones?
Perhaps there exists a preferred elite within these countries who continue to benefit from these resources as a small cabal and protect this enterprise by ensuring trade is essentially illegal and the preserve of the criminal few?
Of course, this works perfectly well for the major, lucrative confidence trick being plied by the BINGOs. Their puppet states read out interventions without shame in the meetings which would have you believe that animals simply do not mate, breed and when positively managed and adequately secured, actually proliferate.
But, big donation buttons on BINGO websites need click-bait in the form of doe-eyed animals, often caricatured into Disney-like quaintness with human-like characters, and a place somewhere far off out of the gullible donating public’s eye that can be proffered as the scene of impending crisis and doom.
This is what keeps the literally Billions of US$ flowing into the coffers of these nefarious operators. They throw a good percentage back into perpetuating the myth and fighting their “cause” of course, but absolutely nothing into actually securing the vast landscapes that are necessary to provide for both the fauna as well as the people, which actually coexist in the third world countries they focus on. Is this perhaps the greatest global fraud of all?
As Africans, surely these puppet states cannot possibly believe this nonsense. Their scripts are being written by others, sometimes verbatim, and they gush it out at opportune moments. The fact that even megafauna species, such as elephant, have the proven capacity when in secure landscapes, to double their populations every ten years seems to elude them.
And yet the trees these same states want to commercialise take many more decades to grow to maturity. Every proper ecologist knows that the priority order for conserving biodiversity begins with the soil, then enables the plants and this then sustains the animals upwards through the food-chain.
We, humans, take our place here too, and with forward facing eyes and a gut suited to omnivorous diets, as predators.
Breeding is what creates more fauna. Humans are particularly good at this. Animals too actually. But somehow, the unchallenged narrative of the anti-use parties and their BINGO allies would have everyone believe that the animals never were told about “the birds and the bees” and have no ability to procreate anymore.
While Micky and Minnie Mouse, now both well over 90 years old, have never seemed to have had any children, we can assure everyone that real animals are able to, and actually do have them, all the time.
All they need is an enabling, secure and well managed environment, and to be harvested with responsibility in sustainable quantities for the benefit of animals, plants and humankind. No species of animal should be excluded from this principle on the basis of its so-called charismatic, iconic or emotionally evocative nature. Logic, science and good management must prevail.