Purple Record Writer The IUCN Infiltrated By Trophy Hunters

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GENEVA – Giraffes surpass all other animals in nature – but in the wild their number is rapidly declining and they are in urgent need of protection. The giraffe population in Africa has collapsed 40% over the past three decades, with climate change and agricultural expansion being the main drivers.

In 2018, six African countries – the Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Senegal – joined forces to raise the alarm about this sharp decline. They believed there was another threat to animals: international trade in giraffe trophies and body parts.

Finally, you can buy giraffe heads online as decoration for your home for around $ 9,000 or pay for a handyman to stretch the animal skin into custom-made furniture. The giraffe's brain is now used to manufacture medicines that are sold in some African countries as alleged cures for AIDS.

Representatives from the six African countries turned to an organization they hoped would support their goals: the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN), one of the largest and most influential conservation organizations in the world.

They asked the IUCN for a scientific analysis of the situation, knowing that a favorable opinion would greatly improve the chances of success of a joint application to help protect giraffes from trophy hunters that they present to the organizers of the UN World Animal Conference wanted to.

A few months later, however, the IUCN decided that international trade in giraffe trophies was not a critical threat to the species.

The IUCN is recognized worldwide as a leader in species protection. The vast network of 15,000 experts advises national governments on which endangered species should be protected, and the five to ten-year published red list is the world's most comprehensive list of the most endangered species.

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An investigation by BuzzFeed News, however, shows that trophy hunters and luxury fashion brands have been working for years to influence the IUCN and expand the billion-dollar trade in endangered species.

Trophy hunting is big business – 1.7 million hunting trophies have been traded worldwide in the last decade, and 200,000 of them come from endangered species, according to the International Animal Welfare Fund.

Advocates defend the trophy hunt as a way to fund conservation efforts that will ultimately help hunt the animals even if they are already at risk. However, critics say the benefits are exaggerated and a convenient argument for those who just want to kill wild animals for sports. The trophy hunt has entered public awareness ever since global anger over the approval of an American dentist in Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe broke out.


Daniel Leal-Olivas / Getty Images

A brochure with a picture of Cecil the Lion, which was held on July 30, 2016 at a vigil in central London.

BuzzFeed News identified conflicts of interest within the IUCN and identified the links that exist between IUCN member organizations and the trophy hunting and fashion industry. In the meantime, some conservation experts have been excluded from the IUCN groups who have been instrumental in making decisions about which species should be classified as the most endangered. Hunters have IUCN guidelines; Tracking money flows from big game hunters to organizations linked to IUCN members; heard that experts were censored for speaking out against the leather trade; learned that efforts to support animal welfare were suppressed by the IUCN; I received an email from an IUCN member asking lobbyists for trophy hunting and rhinoceros breeders to publicly help China expand its trade in tiger and rhinoceros parts.

"IUCN is considered the world's leading science and research agency for wildlife conservation, but when you look at the members who have an impact on the organization, you have to wonder if this status is still justified," she said Biologist Daniela Freyer from the German organization Pro Wildlife on BuzzFeed News.

In response to BuzzFeed The news results, the IUCN said that its affiliates had been reviewed prior to admission and would have to report potential conflicts of interest.

"The process by which IUCN policy is determined ensures that Union policy is not overly influenced." said a spokesman. “The IUCN policy is democratically determined by its over 1,300 members at the World Conservation Congresses. Neither the members of the IUCN commission nor the employees can determine the IUCN policy outside of this process. "

Yet how can an organization entrusted with the monumental responsibility of global conservation protect which species deserve our protection if some of its members have numerous connections People who spend a lot of money hunting for some of the most endangered species in the world who want to harvest skins and furs for clothing?


Ed Wray / Getty Images

A worker in a small shop that makes snakeskin purses and wallets dyes snakeskin in March 2014 in Comal, Indonesia.

It is a little difficult to explain exactly what role the IUCN plays in global wildlife conservation, but it is important to understand how truly influential it is. Ready? Let's go!

Let's start with one of the most important global nature conservation agreements, the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife and Plants, or CITES.

The international treaty aims to ensure that worldwide trade in wild animals and plants does not endanger the survival of wild species. Almost every country in the world has agreed to abide by the rules of the convention.

If member countries want to propose stricter protection for certain animal species by "listing" them in the CITES agreement, they usually turn to the IUCN scientific analysis and nature conservation NGO Traffic, as they do six African countries did when they wanted to increase protection for giraffes.

Traffic, a monitoring network for wildlife trading, is a joint program of the IUCN and the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF). Their website states that support for the enforcement of CITES has been the "ongoing priority" of the NGOs since it was founded in 1976 and is committed to "keeping international wildlife trade at a sustainable level".

After the IUCN and Traffic publish their joint analysis, CITES member countries vote for or against the proposals at the CITES Conference of the Parties, also called the World Wildlife Conference, which takes place every three years.

There are 160 specialist groups in the IUCN, each focusing on a specific species or several similar species. These groups prepare the analysis that will eventually be presented to the World Wildlife Conference, where country representatives will decide which endangered animals can be traded and to what extent.

In an email to BuzzFeed News, a spokesman for the United Nations-managed CITES Secretariat that supports the implementation of the Convention, the following applies: “Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, interest groups, industry, Universities, etc. can also express their opinions and disseminate information as they see fit and there are no 'rules' regulating such comments. ”

have the rules adopted at the World Wildlife Conference enormous consequences for trophy hunters, the global food industry and fashion companies, the masses of furs and furs of endangered animals buy species.

The IUCN has clear rules that require members to report conflicts of interest, but there are potential conflicts everywhere.

Julian Fennessy is a 46-year-old Australian biologist and director of an NGO called the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) based in Namibia, where he has lived for 20 years.

He is also the chair of the IUCN Expert Group on Giraffes and Okapis, which, according to its own website, “is making efforts to investigate and guide and support conservation measures, such as giraffes, okapi and the threats to which they are exposed to ensure the survival of the two species the future. “

The GCF makes a lot of money from trophy hunters – their own website makes no secret of the fact that they are among the largest sponsors of the NGO. The Dallas Safari Club, the largest hunting association in the world, has donated at least $ 50,000 to the GCF, as has the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance, whose founder Ivan Carter has repeatedly campaigned for trophy hunting.


Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

A giraffe in the Mashatu Game Reserve in Mapungubwe, Botswana.

Fennessy said these donations have no impact on his work for the IUCN, where he should make objective decisions about the future of giraffe populations.

"GCF was and will never be a mouthpiece for any supporter who will help us fulfill our mandate to save giraffes in the wild in Africa through a science-based approach to protection," Fennessy wrote in an e- Mail to BuzzFeed News.

"I personally, capacity or as director of the GCF have never received a payment to make an IUCN recommendation for the giraffe proposal. Our views and approach to protecting the environment are based on scientific knowledge. This approach applies to all aspects of our work. “

Shane Mahoney from Canada is chairman of the North American IUCN group on the subject of“ Sustainable Use and Livelihoods ”. "But he is also a big game hunter.

He is also a former member of the International Council for Game and Animal Welfare (CIC) and the Dallas Safari Club and is currently the director of a trophy hunting lobby group called the Conservation Force.

The Conservation Force states on its website that Mahoney attended an IUCN meeting in 2004 to work to reduce the status of African elephants on the red list from "endangered" to "endangered." Mahoney poses on the side for his own Conservation Visions initiative with a rifle over his shoulder.The Dallas Safari Club provided financial support for Conservation Visions in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, Mahoney spoke at the Hunting Club's annual meeting, where he said that the Dallas Safari Club was "the real deal" in terms of wildlife conservation.

When Mahoney was contacted by BuzzFeed News, said he, he had never seen a decision by the IUCN been overly influenced. "I have never experienced and have never been asked by anyone or any organization to influence the decisions, policies or actions of the IUCN, and I would not and I would not tolerate such behavior," he said by email .

Conservation Force President John Jackson III has made several attempts to protect white rhinos that are "almost threatened" on the Red List. According to the group's own website, Jackson has prevented stricter protection for lions and North American desert sheep and filed at least a dozen lawsuits against the US Endangered Species Act to lower the bar on the import of hunting trophies.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News at the World Wildlife Conference in Geneva last summer, 73-year-old Jackson said he killed elephants, lions, leopards, African buffaloes, and rhinos: animals that big game hunters called “Big Five ”. He also has a stuffed polar bear at home, he said.

The relationship of the IUCN with big game hunters has been an important concern of some wildlife experts for years.

"Internally, the influence of trophy hunters has long been the subject of discussion within the IUCN," said Freyer of the Pro Wildlife Organization in Munich. “The hunting associations always commission studies when a species becomes the focus of conservationists. There are also critical voices in the IUCN, but they are not always welcomed. “

According to a report by the UK-based campaign to ban trophy hunting, members of the Conservation Force in the IUCN are currently focusing on promoting leopard and lion hunting. Lion hunting is controversial as the number of lions in Africa decreased by 43% between 1993 and 2014, according to the IUCN. Trade in trophies and lion bones for traditional Chinese medicine has increased significantly in recent years. The IUCN estimates that there are only about 20,000 lions left in Africa.


Yasuyoshi Chiba / Getty Images

People take part in a march to stop elephants and rhinos from being poached in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 13, 2019.

However, it is not just the big five that conservationists are worried about.

In 2018, China lifted a 25-year moratorium on the trade in tiger and rhinoceros body parts that are highly valued in China. Traditional Chinese Medicine. China's actions have been praised by Hank Jenkins, who runs a consulting firm in Australia called Creative Conservation Solutions and is also a member of the IUCN Expert Group on Crocodiles.

BuzzFeed News received an email from Jenkins' account asking recipients to "support China's brave decision to try a new approach to protecting tigers and rhinos". The 21 people that the email was sent to included the owner of one of the largest rhino farms in the world and other supporters of trophy hunting. The email said Jenkins had been asked by a friend of the Chinese government to contact his network.


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Three days after the email was sent, Jenkins praised the Chinese government's actions as a "bright spot for tigers and rhinos" in an online article.

Jenkins told BuzzFeed News that he had not sent the email 2018 questionable email describing it as "clearly a fake".

“I can assure you that the claims that I consider defamatory and that may adversely affect my character and profession are not sound. "He said via email.

Days later, under the international outcry over the effects of his decision on wild tigers and rhinos, China overturned his decision.

There is more potential Dietrich Jelden was department head at the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation until 2016. Since his retirement, he has been a lobbyist for the CIC hunting association and campaigns against the protection of giraffes. He is still a member of the IUCN expert group for crocodiles -Mail to BuzzFeed News, he said that he had no conflict of interest, was not a trophy hunter, that he received no money from the CIC and was only acting out of conviction.


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Grahame Webb has been leading the IUCN Crocodile Expert Group for decades – he also owns a giant crocodile farm in Australia that collects eggs from wild nests. Until two years ago, Webb told BuzzFeed News, he sold crocodile leather to brands like Louis Vuitton. Webb said he had never made a profit from the sale of crocodile skins, and the sale only funded efforts to preserve the crocodile skins. Selling crocodile products is the “best way” to preserve the reptiles and their habitats. He said the skins that he sold to Louis Vuitton and Hermès, among others, had a CITES certificate, while crocodiles on the Red List were classified as "least dangerous". The IUCN declined conflicts of interest on the grounds that experts were only due to based on their expertise and not on the basis of the organizations they represent.


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Sabine and Thomas Vinke are German herpetologists who moved to Paraguay in 2004. You have written 160 texts in magazines and published eight books. They even present a weekly TV show, Paraguay Salvaje or Wild Paraguay.

Since moving to Paraguay, the Vinkes have been working to better protect red Tegu, a lizard that lives in the Gran Chaco forest in Paraguay, and Argentina, a fragile ecosystem that is threatened by the spread of livestock is. Around 150,000 red Tegus are caught, killed, skinned and shipped to Europe every year for the leather industry.

The Vinkes believe that the red tegus are at risk and trade should be banned or at least strictly prohibited. However, their attempts to protect the Red Tegus were difficult.

According to CITES, the global nature conservation treaty, the less endangered a species on paper, the more skins and body parts are available on the market. If a species is classified as endangered, it can cost the fashion industry millions.

In September 2014, the Vinkes submitted an application to the IUCN to set up a new group of experts with the ultimate goal of the work. Learn how Red Tegu should be placed on the Red List. There was already a written agreement to form such a group, which BuzzFeed News consulted. The agreement is signed by Simon Stuart, who was head of the IUCN Species Survival Commission in 2014.

However, Sabine Vinke said that her efforts immediately after submitting the application to set up an expert group were combated by what she called the IUCN leather lobby, that reptile skin trading was the best protection for certain species.

The Vinkes said Stuart had also put roadblocks in their way.

He wrote to them in 2014 that several IUCN scientists had raised concerns about the creation of an expert group Red Tegus. "I would be grateful if you could interrupt the appointment of members of the new section or initiate other activities of the section until we have the opportunity to speak," Stuart wrote in an email from BuzzFeed News.


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Sabine Vinke said that Stuart told them in a subsequent phone call that they should stop dealing with the leather industry. She said he told them to give up the section. "He was very angry and asked us to resign," she said.

When contacted by BuzzFeed News, Stuart said he could not remember the call to Sabine Vinke, but declined to threaten her. "You are not the kind of thing I would have said." Stuart, who has worked for the IUCN for 30 years, said that the Vinkes voluntarily abandoned their attempt to form the group and that he believed it would be helpful to set up such a group. Stuart ended his tenure as chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission in 2016 after eight years in the role. The 63-year-old is now director of the Synchronicity Earth Charity in London.


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Years later, in June 2019, the Vinkes published a long-term study on the spread of Red Tegus in an expert-reviewed magazine, and concluded that the population of lizards had declined significantly, mainly due to deforestation and habitat loss , Shortly after the study was published, the Vinkes were excluded from the IUCN expert group to which they still belonged, which specialized in boas and pythons.

In a letter from BuzzFeed News, the group's leader, Tomás Waller die Vinkes, reported that he had doubts about their dates and that their stance against trade was inconsistent with the IUCN's work.

Anti-trade approach, very far from the goals and visions of the IUCN, ”wrote Waller. (In some conservation groups, the term "not used" refers to a refusal to make money from wild animals.)

Waller informed BuzzFeed News that he had excluded the Vinkes from the expert group because they had contributed nothing to their work. In addition, the "attitude and ideology" of the Vinkes was not compatible with the IUCN.

As hideous as it may be for some people, there is strong evidence that local communities can use wildlife resources sustainably. A proven way to ensure species and habitat conservation – and vital livelihoods for them Deriving people and ensuring the preservation of important indigenous culture, ”Waller wrote in an email.

In early December 2018, the luxury brand Chanel was founded, declaring that it would no longer process the skins of exotic animals. Chanel President Bruno Pavlovsky said it had become difficult for the company to determine the exact origin of the reptile skin.

Just three days after Chanel's announcement, an online fashion magazine published an article entitled "Why Chanel's Exotic Skins Ban Is False." The authors of the article were all members of the IUCN, including Webb, the head of the IUCN Group for crocodiles and catfish.


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Fred Bercovitch is one of the most renowned giraffe experts in the world and a member of the IUCN specialist group for giraffes and okapis. The 67-year-old American is director of Save the Giraffes in San Antonio and has taught as a professor at universities in Japan and South Africa.

When the IUCN / traffic analysis was requested by the six Africans. In March 2019, who was anonymous on the CITES website. English: emagazine.credit-suisse.com/app/art … = 157 & lang = de was published, he set off to find out who the authors are. He was of the opinion that the trade in giraffe parts was not a threat to the future of the animal – it did not matter whether this was the case, and above all that the overall giraffe population shrank.

“I interviewed half a dozen people from our specialist group, but nobody knew who the authors were. And most of them disagreed scientifically with the IUCN analysis, ”he told BuzzFeed News. "I don't know anyone who was asked for their opinion before the analysis was completed."

A month before the publication of the IUCN / traffic analysis, Bercovitch learned that seven non-governmental nature conservation organizations had sent a letter in support of the IUCN, requesting African countries to protect giraffes to the IUCN Section for Giraffes and Okapis. However, the letter has never been forwarded to experts like Bercovitch.

BuzzFeed News has received a copy of the letter citing scientific data that shows that from 2006 to 2015 more than 3,800 giraffe trophies were delivered to We Alone. The letter was addressed to the expert group chair, Australian biologist Fennessy.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Fennessy defended the IUCN / traffic analysis and said he didn't know who wrote it. In an IUCN paper, however, Fennessy is identified as the reviewer of the analysis. An IUCN spokesman said in an email: "At least one member of the core team was in direct contact with each reviewer or was copied in correspondence with each reviewer."

at the World Wildlife Conference in Geneva in August 2019 At the request of the Chad delegation, Bercovitch made the important decision to speak out against the IUCN. It was the first time that he did that. In a 10-minute lecture he made a strong plea for the protection of the giraffes. "When I finished my presentation, some people from the IUCN looked at me as if they thought: who the hell is this guy?"

But the professor's appointment worked and the delegates sided with the six African countries. Vote 106-21 against the IUCN recommendation. The international trade in giraffe parts should now be controlled for the first time.

However, such victories for trophy hunting critics are extremely rare. In 2017, the IUCN Council, the union's governing body, faced a dilemma. The International Animal Welfare Fund (IFAW) had applied to become a member of the IUCN, but the NGO was explicitly against the hunt for trophies of any kind. Proponents of trophy hunting in the IUCN Council had serious concerns, arguing that it would be impossible to reach consensus within the IUCN if a member organization refused to recognize trophy hunting as a valuable conservation tool. The IUCN council was divided, with some councilors on the side of the IFAW.

The IUCN Council commissioned an internal report to settle the dispute between trophy hunters and their critics in order to finally clarify what position the IUCN should take.

Responsibility for the preparation of the report was finally assumed by the chairman of the IUCN specialist ethics group, a German lawyer named Klaus Bosselmann.

Bosselmann assembled a team of six experts who worked on the report for six months. It was finished by October 2017 and its conclusion was really explosive.

“The key question is whether trophy hunting, as operated by individuals and promoted by certain hunting organizations, is compatible with the general objectives of the IUCN. This is clearly not the case, ”the report said.

“Any other perspective would jeopardize the IUCN's credibility for moral and ethical leadership in nature conservation policy. "

Before the final report was forwarded, however, the IUCN Council was given the opportunity to be the first to advocate for trophy hunting in the IUCN. Jennifer Mohamed-Katerere, chair of the IUCN's Governance and Constituency Committee (GCC), invited members of the expert group on sustainable use and livelihood to get in touch with the GCC, according to emails from BuzzFeed News. The Sustainable Use and Livelihood Group, whose deputy chairman is Canadian hunter Mahoney, strongly encourages the "benefits" of what its members call "sustainable trophy hunting."

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Mohamed-Katerere, she said that she had stimulated "a complete and transparent debate on all issues before the committee".

She invited speakers, "with different perspectives on the subject, and gave them the same time to deal with the GCC. The aim of the expert meeting was that all speakers should share their insights on these issues with the GCC- The aim was to enrich the understanding of the committee members. ”(In November 2017, the IFAW was finally accepted as an IUCN member.)

It was only in September 2019, almost two years later, that the IUCN finally published the full results of the Bosselmann team, but then the media suddenly removed the report from the IUCN website, and three days later it was restored but provided with "more information" – the IUCN had included explanations from supporters of the trophy hunt.

In einer offiziellen Erklärung, die zur gleichen Zeit veröffentlicht wurde, wurde die IUCN offiziell distanzierte sich von Bosselmanns Bericht , der, wie die Gewerkschaft sagte, nur eine "Meinung" und nicht die Ansicht der Organisation war, obwohl er von ihrer eigenen Ethikgruppe herausgegeben wurde.

Ein IUCN-Sprecher erklärte gegenüber BuzzFeed News: „Das Dokument wird als Stellungnahme bezeichnet, weil es sich in Wirklichkeit um eine Stellungnahme handelt.“

Bosselmann, der in Neuseeland lehrt und seit 20 Jahren Direktor des neuseeländischen Zentrums für Umweltrecht ist, war es dennoch erfreut, dass der Bericht seines Teams endlich das Licht der Welt erblickt hatte. "Ich habe eine wahre Flut von E-Mails von mehreren Mitgliedern der IUCN und vielen Organisationen mit Danksagungen erhalten", schrieb er letztes Jahr in einer E-Mail an BuzzFeed News, nachdem der Bericht schließlich veröffentlicht worden war.

Im Juni 2020 Der IUCN World Conservation Congress findet in Marseille, Frankreich, statt. Der Vierjahreskongress ist das weltweit größte Naturschutzereignis, das selbst die World Wildlife Conference in den Schatten stellt. Es ist eine Gelegenheit für Mitglieder, über neue Prinzipien abzustimmen, die die Arbeit der IUCN leiten.

Nach der Veröffentlichung des Berichts von Bosselmann reichten acht IUCN-Mitgliedsorganisationen einen Antrag ein, wonach der Weltnaturschutzkongress seine Schlussfolgerungen als IUCN-Prinzipien anerkennt.

Doch im vergangenen November lehnte das IUCN-Komitee, das darüber entscheidet, welche von Mitgliedsorganisationen vorgeschlagenen Themen auf dem Kongress tatsächlich diskutiert werden, den Antrag ab. Das heißt, das nächste Mal, wenn eine Resolution zur Trophäenjagd an der IUCN diskutiert wird, ist 2024.

Mark Jones von der Born Free Foundation, eine der acht Organisationen, die die Anerkennung des Bosselmann-Berichts forderten, sagte BuzzFeed News: „ Ich persönlich bin traurig darüber, dass die IUCN, eine Organisation, die vorgibt, die "globale Autorität für den Status der natürlichen Welt und die zu deren Schutz erforderlichen Maßnahmen" zu sein, so stark von Befürwortern der Trophäenjagd beeinflusst zu sein scheint, die ein begründetes Interesse an der Ausbeutung wild lebender Tiere haben für finanziellen Gewinn. “●

Eröffnungsbild: Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Es wurde mit einem Stipendium des Earth Journalism Network unterstützt.

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