Biologist, Conservationist, & Portlander. My passion lives in Africa.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Enough is enough."

3:10 PM Posted by Tara Easter No comments
It's funny how when you start paying attention, history really does repeat itself. At our very first Roots and Shoots meeting, my friend and I (nervously and shaking) presented a history of the ivory trade and sparked a debate over the recent decision of Kenyan officials to burn a pile of ivory to make a statement.

The controversy 

Kenyan officials wanted - and needed to - make a statement: Poaching for ivory is unacceptable. But, others felt this was a waste of resources. Killing elephants for ivory is illegal (hence the term "poaching"), but confiscated tusks that are in the hands of the government could be legally sold under Appendix II of CITES, so why not sell and feed that money back into conservation programs? 

As the struggle to protect the worlds largest land mammal continues in Africa, let's jump to the Western hemisphere, where a giant of a different kind faces the same turmoil.

Last week, Belizeans watched a pile of illegally harvested rosewood burn, estimated to be worth U.S. $400,000. Not all of it went to waste, "The Minister burnt only the export quality beams, while the smaller posts were donated to communities in the district and the burls to carvers at a local foundation."

Destroying the rosewood was, “not an easy decision to make,” said Hon. Senator Alamilla, “but I want to send an unmistakeable message to everybody in Belize: we have to manage our forest sustainably for the benefit of the Belizean people, and this government is going to stamp out the clandestine illegal logging of our natural resources.”

Rosewood and ivory actually have a lot in common. Rosewood is used to make fancy furniture in a high-end market. Ivory is used for figurines for the wealthy consumer and devoted worshippers. Both are in high demand. Both come from organisms with a slow growth rate. And both are being harvested at an unsustainably high rate. Whether the debate is in Africa or Central America, protecting animals or trees, the message of these countries is clear. 

There has to be a way to get that message to the governments of the countries that support these illegal trades the most. Imagine if their officials were to say to their people and to the rest of the world:

"Enough is enough."


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