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Position on Rhino Horn Trade


The Ivory Education Institute is an official observer at the 18th meeting of the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. About 4,000 official delegates, observers, media and interested individuals have gathered in Geneva in a UN-secured site for the 11-day conference that may have great bearing on the future status of objects made from or with ivory.. The Ivory Institute was delighted and surprised, then, that the European Commission invited us to share our concerns at a special meeting BEFORE the opening of the Conference. Because we were unsure of how long we would be allowed to speak to the EU representatives, we prepared a written statement. I thought you might be interested in what we have given the EU to consider. 


Mr. President and other Distinguished Members of the European Union here today. I was honored — and delighted — by your invitation to make a presentation on the issues of concern to the Ivory Education Institute. What an open and generous offer.

  • As we see recent developments, the EU has become party to an unseemly trend — to remove the middle name given to CITES when it was first conceived in the years prior to 1976.
  • Whether wittingly or unwittingly, the EU is helping to erase the word TRADE from the concerns of CITES. Please remember that the purpose of the treaty, to which all of your governments adhere, is to regulate INTERNATIONAL TRADE in endangered species. CITES should have nothing to do with domestic trade or non-endangered species.
  • Recent decisions and those issues pending at COP 18 have the practical goal of eliminating all trade — international and domestic — in wild species. Punto. That is the underlying agenda of the ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUPS. They earnestly believe that humans have no inherent right to interfere, profit or otherwise benefit from wild animals.
  • Those of us who are part of the Sustainable Use Coalition strongly disagree with this agenda and appreciate this chance to publicly say why.
  • Man — as much an animal as any of his relatives who stayed in the forests, still roam the bush or have kept to the seas — has attained the top rung on the food chain. While that fact seems to embarrass some of our urban cousins, it is a matter of great pride and conscious responsibility. For those of us trying to find the right balance between herds of elephants, rhinos or anything else confined to a specific space and the habitats of human beings living among them, the successful survival of both is paramount.
  • But those who want complete separation of man and the wild find everything that talks of co-habitation sinful. They claim to be horror struck, and exploit that feeling to their great financial benefit, whenever they learn that some animals and plants may die in the process we are advocating. Yes, we say, that may happen, but then all of God’s creations must die at some point. We agree that hastening the end of a few animals is a sad shame, but then the greater good for the many justifies the policy.
  • That makes us ask this: What gives anyone living in the West the right to repeat the colonial mistakes of the 19th century by dictating how Africa should deal with its natural resources today?
  • As we see it, there is no difference between the millions of dollars and euros that the animal rights groups spend to effectively bribe African leaders into following their dictates and the arrogance that Bismark, Rhodes, Livingston, Kruger and others brought to Africa with their version of civilization (Western), their favored style of religion (Christianity), and their form of economics (government-protected capitalism).
  • To us corrupting African leadership to accept Western attitudes and beliefs is just as racist as the policies perpetrated by any of the names found in the history books.
  • What do I want from this COP? Three things primarily.
  1. I want the EU to lead the way in reminding the world that ivory is a unique and historically vital material. As such, it has imitators — bone, horn, woods, clays and plastics — but no true substitute. I want the EU to remind the world that ivory is not exclusively produced by elephants, but is also a product of walruses, narwhals, boars, warthogs, hypos, whales and mammoths, most of which are NOT endangered. I want the EU to say that banning trade in ivory would be to cheat our generation of the art, decoration and tools that every other generation — stretching back before history was written — has enjoyed. I want the EU to recognize that if you ban trade in ivory without changing its cultural attraction, you will increase poaching because demand will remain unfettered. You will also rob Africa of the resources it needs to conserve its wild assets. No ban in history has worked and Prohibition in the U.S., its War on Drugs, and the current opioid crisis is incontrovertible truth of that fact.
  2. I want the EU to vocally encourage the preservation and exchange of any antique made from or with ivory. In so doing, the EU will recognize the value that collectors provide to our culture by providing museums and their patrons with their first draft of history.
  3. Finally, I want the EU to make a crystal clear commitment that they believe in allowing Africans the freedom to control their own destiny, including caring for iconic wild species for the benefit of the world. France cares for the Mona Lisa; the Vatican cares for the Sistine Chapel; the British care for Stonehenge; and the U.S. has the Grand Canyon without interference from outside busybodies. Does any official in the United States truly believe that people living in Nairobi or Pretoria or Gaborone can tell them anything about how to manage America’s overpopulated white tailed deer, their overcrowded wild mustang herds, or their disappearing mountain lions? Would Europe accept bribes disguised as financial grants, economic aid, scholarships, or organizational honoraria to change policies that are to the detriment of its people? No. So be good enough to keep the Animal Rights Groups away and allow Africa the same space to care for its wild species.
  • For your background, the Ivory Education Institute participated in symposia that led to the concept that Afrii-CAN. To highlight that fact, it sponsored the making of an original musical video. Africa certainly CAN. And you can have a role in helping prove that point.
  • Here is my suggestion. Bring the leadership of Africa’s conservation community together with European political and financial experts in a three-day symposium. Africans know what needs to be done and how to do it. Europe can give them political cover against the backlash of the animal rights groups as well as financial help to overcome the corrupting pressure of the animal rights groups — whose tentacles now extend into your own ministries as well as to their counterparts in Africa.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you and I stand ready here and in the future to help you achieve the goals I have outlined.

Geneva, Switzerland                                           August 18, 2019


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