The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, the WWF and with the support of the Geneva Environmental Network organized the launch of “Beyond borders: Crime, conservation and criminal networks in the illicit rhino horn trade”, the second of two reports investigating the illegal trade in rhino horn and law enforcement responses, at the International Environment House in Geneva, on Wednesday 13 July.
Beyond borders: Crime, conservation and criminal networks in the illicit rhino horn trade
Six thousand rhinos have fallen to poachers’ bullets in Africa over the past decade and only about 25,000 remain – a fraction of the tens of thousands that roamed parts of the continent fifty years ago. Driven by seemingly insatiable demand in Southeast Asia and China, rhino horn has become a black market commodity rivalling gold and platinum in value.
This report, the second of two, focuses on rhino poaching, smuggling and organised crime in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, two source countries for rhino products where legal and law enforcement frameworks to curb rhino poaching are in place, yet poorly implemented. It also investigates the involvement of the diplomatic world in the rhino horn trade including recent revelations of North Korean embassy involvement.
The launch included an introduction to the Global Initiative by its Deputy Director, Tuesday Reitano, an overview from Carlos Drews, WWF Wildlife Trade Analyst, followed by a presentation by the author of the report, Julian Rademeyer. Rademeyer is a Global Initiative Senior Research Fellow and author of the bestselling book, Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade. The presentation was followed by an open discussion and questions from the floor.
John Scanlon, Secretary General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) welcomed the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime and the WWF International at the International Environment House for the launch of this important report, 72 days ahead of the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17), to be held from 24 September to 5 October, in South Africa.
Speaker 1: Tuesday Reitano, Deputy Director, Global Initiative
- The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime is a network of prominent law enforcement, governance and development practitioners who are dedicated to seeking new and innovative strategies to end organized crime.
- The network recentyl opened an office in Geneva.
Speaker 2: John John Scanlon, Secretary General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
- The CITES Secretariat plays a coordinating, advisory and servicing role in the working of the Convention.
- CITES is very pleased to see the level of efforts taken not only targeting international treaties or conventions aiming to protect wildlife. More efforts are being applied on increasing knowledge or researching on subjects surrounding wildlife crime, especially the organised ones.
- CITIES Annual Report: The report clear define what is national space and what is international space.
- First highlight: this crime is driven by transnational organised crime who are extremely organised, very clever at the same time in distracting international law enforcement. They are not simply hunter but well trained criminals.
- The second important point is cooperation.
- We not only have to look into international level or national level, but also looking into regional and global level. Difficulties here: money laundering and corruption in local police, namely the Police of South Africa.
- The European Union and Senegal: Big discussion on anti-corruption “the word corruption is on the title. Referencing the UN agencies (UN conventions against corruption) against corruption joined because they are specialized in against corruption and for years.
- Last issue mentioned is demand. Supply and demand are also being tackled. Numerous solutions are aimed on the demand side. The traditional medicine for blood (rhino horn), now Chinese medicine do not use it anymore, but use buffalo instead.
- CITES calls for urgent action on illegal ivory and rihno horn trade.
3rd speakers: Carlos Drews, WWF Wildlife Trade Analyst,
- We need to discuss and tackle the issue of . Indeed, all stakeholders must be involved.
- Vietnam: the main destination for rhino horn.
- The future strategy will focus on reducing demand in the destination country.
- Other than that, they have to ensure horn traffickers are prosecuted and strongly punished.
- Today’s success also means that Mozambique, a major transit country for rhino horn, must strengthen legislation and enforcement to reduce trade flows exiting the African continent. It is currently only a misdemeanour to smuggle rhino horns through Mozambique. The country shares a border with South Africa’s Kruger National Park, home to most of the world’s rhinos and also the epicentre of illegal killing.
- Today Zimbabwe, Vietnam, China, South Africa etc still has huge problem of corruption.
- Until today, The police of South Africa plays a huge part of the animal trafficking because they are corrupted.
4th speaker Julian Rademeyer, Global Initiative Senior Research Fellow, author of Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade
- Intro: Rhino horns’ price in the black market today is higher than gold, that’s why people are willing to die for it. The demand is high, and the money is good.
- -More than 6,000 rhinos have been killed in Africa over the past decade. In 2015 only, 1,342 rhino killed across seven African states. South Africa is home to 79% of the continent’s last rhinos and over the past decade, South Africa has lost twenty-two times the number of rhinos killed by poachers in the preceding 25 years. This is 22 times more than the year before. Thankfully, numbers are starting to fall slightly since 2014.
- In SA, Kruger National Park is the size of Wales and the stronghold of rhinos. But there are not enough rangers to stop people from coming into the park to hunt. Over the last 7 years, 80% of poaching took place in KNP.
- Estimated that 7,500 poachers entered the park in 2015 (43% increase on the previous year). There is always groups of poachers in the park at any given time, and they are equipped with silenced European rifles , making them hard to catch. Sell price: 5000E/kg
- Even though Rhino poaching is a priority crime, there are many greater priorities along the illicit supply chain, synonym of a lack of political will. The police and law is thus dysfunctional and somehow ineffective.
- Convictions: 928 cases reported. 61 bought into court and 29 convicted 405 undetected 433 under investigation 0 withdrawn showing that the system is lacking efficiency.
- Challenges: Wrong people in the room. Environmentalists sit down and talking about crime, rarely talk with police, justice, and at a ministerial level. It’s very hard for environmental agencies to take the lead to do all this. There is not enough cooperation between different entities and corruption is an ongoing challenge. Language barrier is also an issue and refrain to cooperation (China & Czech Republic or Poland)
- The USA, China and Russia are the top 3 countries from which the hunters come from or hunt for.
- The Czech connection is the key actor in a complex web of criminal activity and illicit rhino horn deals, experts of legal loophole exploitation. Years of experience have made them experienced smugglers.
- Some diplomats are even part of those smuggling networks, with as many as 29 cases unveiled. Police are being told that that they cannot stop any diplomats and their belongings cannot be searched. The diplomats was asked to leave South Africa.
Q&A / Discussion:
- “Intelligence analysis really needs to be beefed up” stressed