African countries divided over ivory trade

In this hand-out photo released by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), received in London on January 4, 2019, a scientist drills an ivory sample in the WildGenes laboratory based at Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland on November 7, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 07 January 2019
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African countries divided over ivory trade

  • An illegal ivory market in Vietnam and other countries is feeding demand in China, which banned its domestic ivory trade, according to O’Criodain

JOHANNESBURG: Several African countries with some of the world’s largest elephant populations will push this year for looser controls on legal ivory trade, while another group of countries on the continent says more restrictions are the best way to curb the illegal killing of elephants for their tusks.
The dueling proposals reflect divisions within Africa over how to safeguard a species that has been killed in massive numbers by poachers over the past decade and to what extent elephant parts, including ivory, skin and hair, can be sustainably traded as commodities. They pit southern African countries including Botswana and Zimbabwe that say commerce will help them pay to conserve elephants against Kenya, Gabon and others that believe even limited trade fuels demand and drives up illegal killing.
The proposals were released by the office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. They will be discussed when member countries of CITES meet May 23-June 3 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. At the last meeting in Johannesburg in 2016, CITES rejected appeals to relax an international ban on the ivory trade that has been in place for decades.
“There isn’t really any appetite in the international community to agree to this,” said Colman O’Criodain, a wildlife trade expert with the WWF conservation group. He said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Saturday that the Sri Lanka meeting should focus on enforcing anti-trafficking measures instead of engaging in “sterile debates” about whether to trade legally.
An illegal ivory market in Vietnam and other countries is feeding demand in China, which banned its domestic ivory trade, according to O’Criodain. Meanwhile, the main exit points for African ivory from the continent are the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the Tanzanian region of Zanzibar and to a lesser extent Maputo, Mozambique’s seaside capital, he said.
A southern African proposal said Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa have about 256,000 elephants, or more than half of the total estimate for Africa. Protecting elephants as human populations increase and wildlife habitats shrink comes at a big cost, and a closely regulated trade in government-owned stocks of ivory will help to alleviate the burden, it said.
“CITES has acted as an inhibitor and not an enabler of progress,” the proposal said.
Zambia made a similar proposal, saying elephants are competing with people in rural areas for resources and that Zambians would be more tolerant if they see “economic returns earned from the sustainable use of elephant.”
The debate touches on sovereignty issues. Countries that want southern Africa’s elephants to be subject to tighter controls include Gabon, whose forest elephants have been heavily poached, and Nigeria, which has a very small number left. The southern African countries believe countries with their own problems, including weak law enforcement, shouldn’t impose policy on others.
Writing in Zimbabwe’s The Herald, columnist Emmanuel Koro said it was time for southern African countries to act in their “national interests” and consider refusing to go along with CITES-supported bans on the trade in ivory as well as rhino horn. Japan’s recent decision to leave the International Whaling Commission could serve as a guide, he suggested.
O’Criodain, the WWF specialist, cautioned against countries taking the view that “it’s their right to trade and that the consequences are other people’s problems.”


Media urged to deny Christchurch shooting accused the publicity he seeks

Updated 21 March 2019
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Media urged to deny Christchurch shooting accused the publicity he seeks

  • “We’re just going to be very careful we don’t become a platform for any kind of extremist agenda,” say Radio New Zealand chief
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier urged the public not to speak the gunman's name to deny the infamy he wants

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: The media has been urged to stop naming the man charged with the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch last week that left 50 people dead.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that she would never speak his name. In a speech to parliament, she urged the public to follow suit and deny the gunman the infamy he wants.
“I implore you, speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them,” she added. “He may have sought notoriety but we in New Zealand will give him nothing, not even his name.”
Arden said the media can “play a strong role” in limiting coverage of extreme views such as his.
“Of course, people will want to know what is happening with the trial,” she said. “But I would hope there are ways that it could be covered without adding to the notoriety that this individual seeks.
“But the one thing I can assure you – you won’t hear me speak his name.”
The man accused of the mass shootings has so far been charged with one count of murder, but New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush has said further charges will be brought against him. The man said in a manifesto posted online shortly before the attacks that he intended to survive so that he could continue to spread his ideals, and that he intends to plead not guilty. He has said he plans to represent himself in court, although a judge can order a lawyer to assist him.
There have been calls for the media to refuse to report anything he says during the trial. Paul Thompson, the chief executive of Radio New Zealand, said his station will exercise caution and asked editors at all media outlets to take part in a discussion about covering the case.
“We’re just going to be very careful we don’t become a platform for any kind of extremist agenda,” he said, explaining that the station does not want to inflame the situation or become a party to the accused killer’s agenda.
Thompson described the case as “uncharted territory” but said he remains confident that his reporters will do their jobs professionally.
Dr Philip Cass, a senior lecturer in journalism at Auckland’s Unitec Institute of Technology, said the media will have to make “a very fine judgment” about what is reported if the accused killer uses the court as “a forum for the expression of his opinion.” He was wary, however, of calls to completely avoid reporting what is said in court.
“If you do that then we are moving into an area of censorship,” he said, adding that it is the media’s responsibility to provide a record of what is said and done.
Dr Catherine Strong, a journalism lecturer at Massey University, said she is confident that the media in New Zealand media will act responsibly. There is no legal or ethical imperative for journalists to report everything the accused says in court, she pointed out. The country’s media has already shown maturity by not using the name of the accused in headlines and by focusing on covering the shootings from the perspective of the victims, Strong added.

Hal Crawford, the chief news officer at MediaWorks, which owns TV3 and RadioLive in New Zealand, said, "Newshub is open to an industry-wide set of guidelines for reporting on Tarrant's trial, and we are in discussions with other newsrooms. Our aims are to minimise publicity of damaging ideology while reporting the workings of justice objectively." 

The man, who has not yet entered a plea, is due to appear in court again on April 5.