Powerless against greed, crooks and big money


Michael Bauchmüller, Süddeutsche Zeitung

Date Published
Translated from German by an automated online translation service, so please excuse the roughness. See link for original. 

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The vulture is in bad shape, really bad. Within three Vulture generations, so researchers found the University of York out, shrank their numbers in savannas of Africa by 80 percent, in some places the scavengers disappeared entirely. Most were poisoned. They interfered with the work.

Taking out Elephant tusks, is an arduous, bloody, a brutal affair. The poachers climb on the dead animal, with the ax chop it on the jaw. You smash as long as the surrounding bone until the tusk finally loosens. What does that have to do with vultures? They betray the poachers, call Ranger on the scene – because in the meantime the vultures have already begun to circle over the carcass. Therefore, they must die. The Poachers set out carcasses poisoned with cyanide. By this die vultures. So it comes to the business with the treasures of nature.

This weekend begins in Johannesburg the 17th Conference of the CITES Convention, a meeting of the powerless. The so-called CITES agreement intended to prevent the illegal trade in endangered species. Instead, govern greed, crooks and big money. And Prestige, superstition and acquisitiveness already make achievements outweighed. Experts now speak of a poaching crisis, as it has not seen in several decades, all international efforts and export bans defiance. How could that happen?

The elephant is perhaps the most prominent, but by no means the only victim. Even the pangolin. Eight different types are known in the world, four in Asia, four in Africa. The scales are credited all possible effects in East Asia. Between 2001 and 2014 almost 35,000 kilos scales were seized by Chinese authorities, which corresponds to about 60 000 dead pangolins. In Germany, gave the customs within three years to 700 kilos of horn platelets. How many scales are smuggled undetected, nobody knows. And because the Asian species are already virtually eradicated, the growing demand for animals from Africa. By now, all eight pangolin species from extinction.

The rhinoceros are no better. In the previous 1342 rhinos were killed by counts of conservationists, more than ever before. Your Horn is pulverized, it is considered a performance-enhancing and should help against all kinds of diseases. To get to the Horn, access to poachers chainsaw. The totoaba turn, one to two meter long fish, threatening its swim bladder to be fatal, it applies in the Far East as a remedy for infertility. Sought are there also bears, whether their paws or their meat. Rights are all. What helped the barely.

Behind the deadly boom is a new middle class, especially in Asia, which can provide seemingly limitless in a global market. “This is a bit like in Germany after the economic miracle,” says Franz Böhmer, which deals with the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation with illicit trafficking. “Once the family had money that Mama got a fur coat.” The fur of the past is in the Far East, the “white gold” ivory or rhino powder. In German terrariums it is the most rare animals: the leopard gecko from Iran, the frilled lizard from Australia. Lovers can be found on the Internet. Even protected woods such as rosewood, red sandalwood or Malagasy ebony can be there comfortably buy.

A grotesque cycle has started. Just because some ivory is so scarce, promises to be owned high reputation – after all, it is expensive. But because it is expensive, it promises high returns and increases Thousands of kilometers away the incentive, an elephant to smash the skull. Interpol prized global business with environmental crime in a year up to 231 billion euros. Behind drugs, weapons smuggling and human trafficking is equal to poaching. “Behind this mafia organizations,” says Arnulf Köhncke of WWF. “Organised crime moves ivory and pangolins alike.” The routes would thereby permanently altered to hinder prosecution. Meanwhile, pull the poachers in the savannas of Africa from country to country. Always go where can be large stocks do without great risk.

The result leaves shudder. As recently researchers to the “big elephant census” set off in helicopters and airplanes as they still counted 352,000 animals in Africa. Taking the 23,000 elephants in Namibia which will not sensed the census, then Africa remain good 375 000 pair of tusks – compared with more than one million in the 1970s. Annually, the researchers calculated die 30 000 elephants alone 2007-2014 shrank the stock by 144 000 head. It does not take much arithmetic to foresee the end.

What to do? Should we legalize the trade, and thus impede the poachers? Many expert demands exactly. “Trade restrictions are probably not in the long run the ideal solution,” says Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes, who conducts research at the University of Oxford trade in elephant and rhinoceros. “They create bad economic incentives.” namely to cause shortages and thus rising prices.

Countries such as South Africa and Tanzania actually sitting on huge stocks of ivory. It comes from well-protected national parks where elephants are hunted controlled. Otherwise there would be there, paradoxically enough, too many of them. On the other hand: When the States 2008, struggled to more than 100 tons of ivory to sell out of their stock, which forced the market not in the knees, on the contrary. The Ivory went to China and Japan, but demand grew, instead of sinking – According to studies by two-thirds. In any case illegally traded natural resources can hardly keep track of when parts of the market to be legalized.

Remained even stricter controls – or falling demand. In Vietnam as recently aimed a campaign at young managers, it is called “Chi”. The word is in Vietnamese for the willpower and to provide hitherto supposedly also the rhinoceros powder. Vietnam is one of the largest markets for it. “Manager are the major customers of the powder,” said Madelon Willemsen, the office of Traffic passes in Hanoi, a network to combat the illegal trade in endangered species. “They consume and give rhinoceros horn to prove their wealth around the world.” In a large-scale campaign they know now that willpower has internal roots, the popular powder steeply threatened the rhinoceros. With success, says Willemsen. “We are in this group on the way to a zero tolerance when it comes to the consumption of horn powder.”

Similarly it was with the fur coats of the economic miracle. Were they once proudly paraded, they gather dust now in the wardrobes. was a blemish from the prestige. “But that’s not something you just in one or two years”, says the conservation officers Böhmer. “That’s a job for a whole generation.”

Meanwhile leaves the vultures a gap which will never again be close – like any kind, once it has been eradicated. Because as bad is his reputation, so important is its role in the animal kingdom: He is the undertaker of Savannah, he takes care of the carcasses before others do. Is there not the vulture, mammals are gutting the dead animals. But instead of doing to eliminate pathogens that fear researchers, they transmit diseases: to humans. So we come full circle.