Archive for February, 2017

A letter to China

At the end of 2016, I received a copy of an extremely depressing letter from Dr Nick Fox OBE, the director of International Wildlife Consultants.

I’ve known Nick ever since I left the League Against Cruel Sports – he was the first person to congratulate me for walking out of that organisation. That was in 1995 and since then we have worked on a few joint projects, the most relevant for me being the exploration of wounding rates in foxes that are shot. That research, which was validated by peer-review in 2005, was not, as some alleged, an attack on shooting, but rather proof the claim heralded by anti-hunting groups at the time the Hunting Act was being debated that shooting is always preferable to hunting is simply wrong.

A hunter, shooter, but foremost a conservationist, Nick is also highly respected around the globe, mainly for his work in falconry, sustainable use of species and animal welfare – it is for this work he was awarded the Order of the British Empire. It is also because of this work that he felt so strongly about the contents of the open letter he copied to me, which was written by Dr Chris Brown, the Chief Executive Officer of the Namibian Chamber of Environment to the Chinese Ambassador to Namibia, Xin Shunkang.
The letter refers to ways in which China is exploiting natural resources in Africa and here are some extracts:
“While we recognize that not all Chinese nationals are involved in wildlife crimes, Namibia’s environmental community believes that the situation regarding Chinese nationals committing wildlife crimes in Namibia is far more serious and broad-based than you have acknowledged.”
“As Chinese nationals moved into all regions of Namibia, setting up businesses, networks, acquiring mineral prospecting licenses and offering payment for wildlife products, the incidence of poaching, illegal wildlife capture, collection, killing and export has increased exponentially. Chinese nationals have been involved in, and/or are the commercial drivers behind: the escalating poaching of rhinos and elephants in Namibia and the illegal export of rhino horn and ivory, the capture, trade and export of pangolins, the import of Chinese monofilament nets in industrial quantities via Zambia to the northeast of Namibia, which are destroying the fisheries of the Zambezi, Chobe, Kwando and Okavango Rivers, the unsustainable commercialization of fisheries in these north-eastern rivers and wetland systems for export to cities and towns in neighbouring countries, the capture and killing of Carmine Bee-eaters at their breeding colonies by means of nets, the rise in bush-meat poaching wherever Chinese nationals are working on road construction and other infrastructure, including tortoises, monitor lizards, pythons and any other form of wild meat, including from protected and endangered species, the illegal collection of shellfish on the Namibian coast, the illegal transit through Namibia and attempted export of poached abalone from Cape waters through Namibian ports.
We are also aware of long-standing interests by some Chinese nationals to start a shark fin industry in Namibia, a practice that has caused widespread damage to shark populations in many parts of the world, including in South Africa.
And more recently, Chinese nationals have proposed to capture marine mammals and seabirds for the Asian aquarium market. The Namibian scientific and environmental communities have strongly rejected this proposal on sound conservation and ethical grounds, as has the Namibian public.”

It puts into perspective the degree to which wild animals are being killed for a variety of reasons and it highlights why the focussing of so much time, money and effort on activities such as hunting with hounds in the UK is so misguided. For a country that prides itself on being a world leader in so many fields, it is a sad fact that, unlike the conservation groups that co-signed the letter and indeed the numerous countryside organisations in the UK, many Chinese appear not to understand the meaning of animal welfare, wildlife management or sustainability and even those who do know better seem powerless to stop such exploitation.

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