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Californian Bill Seeking To Ban Wildlife Products Suffers Setback

September 24th, 2020
topic:Hunting & Poaching
by:Cyril Zenda
located in:USA, South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe
tags:trophy hunting, wildlife conservation

For a second time, California has been on the verge of becoming first American state to ban the importation of African wildlife products, thereby spelling doom for the controversial trophy hunting industry.

At the end of August, a hotly contested bill lapsed in California, giving hope to trophy hunters in Africa. The bill sought to impose a ban on importing African animal products into the state, and lapsed before the state’s Senate could vote on it. Supporters of trophy hunting in Africa celebrated it as a victory in their efforts to stop the bill from becoming law.

The bill, which had earlier passed the assembly stage in California was due in the Senate, but it’s time lapsed, resulting in it being consigned to the legislature’s inactive file. This effectively means that the threat of an imminent ban — that could have come into effect as soon as January 2021 — is off for now. Perhaps it will be revived sometime next year.

BILL IN THE INACTIVE FILE

“The bill passed the California Assembly but was not voted on in the Senate” explained a journalist in California, writing to FairPlanet. “Currently it’s in the inactive file and will most likely be brought back up during the next legislative session in January… several other states are currently working on similar bills, as well as a few countries.”

Through this bill — SB 1175 — the state of California was trying to ban wildlife product imports in a development that supporters see as California’s contribution to African wildlife conservation efforts. But opponents of the bill argue that the proposed law would actually have the opposite effect, as it would negatively impact existing conservation efforts. The bill was sponsored by Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park). 

CONSERVATION CAMPS DISAGREE

While the bill enjoys very strong support from the anti-trophy hunting lobby, it has also attracted strident opposition. Both sides of the debate are supporters of wildlife conservation. However, they violently disagree on how to manage that conservation.

“It’s time to wake up and realise that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction event,” explained Senator Stern who introduced the Bill — also known as the Iconic African Species Protection Act — in the Californian legislature. “We need to stop the brutal trade in exotic and endangered wildlife once and for all. Whether it’s a pangolin being sold for faulty medicine, a white Bengal tiger being enslaved for entertainment, or a black rhino ‘trophy’ used to satisfy some misguided hunter’s ego, California must put an end to wildlife trafficking.”

COMMUNITIES, GOVERNMENTS OPPOSED

The trophies in question are those of the African elephant, leopard, lion, black and white rhino, giraffe, Jentink’s duiker, plains zebra, mountain zebra, hippo, baboon, hyena and pangolin. More than 60 percent of these animal species are found in southern Africa. As a result, dozens of African communities that depend on proceeds from safari hunting signed a petition against the proposed law. This is in addition to about half-a-dozen southern African governments and other interest groups that are strongly opposed to the proposed ban.

Opponents of SB 1175 say those who are sponsoring it are remote outsiders who are far removed from the realities on the ground.

VOICES OF RURAL COMMUNITIES MATTER

A recent open letter by 50 community leaders representing millions of African villagers requested some global celebrities to stop using their influence to interfere with the African trophy hunting business. In a statement, Masego Madzwamuse, the chief executive of the non-profit Southern African Trust, said: “At a time when there is a global focus on righting social inequity and injustice, it’s unfortunate that the (anti-trophy hunting) campaigns these celebrities are supporting seek to deny rural black Africans the right to sustainably manage their wildlife on their land […] Rural communities live with the cost of managing wildlife every day, their voice matters. When we say Black Lives Matter, we must mean all black lives, everywhere.”

Dries van Coller, the president of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa who welcomed the African community leaders’ letter to celebrities said the ban would cause more harm than good.

“The unintended consequences of such a ban will do significantly more damage to conservation efforts and wildlife throughout Africa than legal, responsible hunting and sustainable use ever could do."

LAW CUTS LIFEBLOOD FOR CONSERVATION

Opponents of the bill insist that the proposed ban puts a huge strain on conservation efforts, due to reductions in money paid for hunts. This money keeps hunting areas in Africa open and animals protected by anti-poaching squads. Many have also argued that trophy animals such as lions and elephants can also be pests in many African communities, devouring livestock and crops — sometimes even killing human beings — thereby necessitating the need for paid conservation through hunts and the exportation of trophies and other related products from hunts.

“It is sad that such legislation about African species is crafted far away from Africa and without input from Africans,” said Fulton Mangwanya, the director general of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. “Our generation has witnessed unprecedented decimation of wildlife and habitat due to a misguided mentality that non-consumptive tourism — such as photography safaris — is a panacea for all conservation and sustainable financial requirements. It is not.”

DOUBTS OVER REAL BENEFICIARIES

The veracity of the claims that most of the money accruing from these controversial trophy hunts goes to conservation efforts as well as towards uplifting the lives of African rural communities is also hotly disputed.

“The falsehood that hunting fees go to local populations is a myth”, said Judie Mancuso, president and founder of Social Compassion in Legislation. “The fact is that money spent on trophy hunts goes to the outfitters, the landowners, and government officials. Locals make money off eco-tourism, not trophy hunting.”

Fears are that once the bill is passed into law, California would become the first US state to ban wildlife trophies — a development that would naturally spread to other states and other Western countries — and thereby take away a lucrative market for the African trophy hunting industry.

FEAR OF ZOONOTIC DISEASES

However, others say the bill is good in that it will cut off imports of any wildlife into the state that could potentially spread zoonotic disease like COVID-19 or that are invasive species.

“The international wildlife trade not only poses a disease risk to people but is a threat to biodiversity,” argued Brendan Cummings, Conservation Director of the Centre for Biological Diversity. “Whether it’s dead animals brought in as trophies or curios, or live animals imported as pets or food, our unsustainable appetite for wildlife is one of the main drivers of the extinction crisis.”

The COVID-19 outbreak has led numerous organisations, including elements of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation to call for bans or restrictions on the live wildlife trade. With the world facing two massive threats — a plague and extinction — some feel it is time to legislate against this trade.

SECOND ATTEMPT

This is the second time Senator Stern is trying to ban African wildlife product imports into California. In 2018, former Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a similar Bill, SB 1487, on grounds of “unenforceability”. Anti-trophy hunt lobbyists regard American President Trump as sympathetic to the school of thought that trophy hunting is a sustainable conservation practice.

Article written by:
CZ Photo
Cyril Zenda
Author
USA South Africa Angola Botswana Lesotho Malawi Mozambique Namibia Swaziland Zambia Zimbabwe
The bill sought to impose a ban on importing African animal products into the state, and lapsed before the state’s Senate could vote on it.
“It’s time to wake up and realise that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction even.,”
The trophies in question are those of the African elephant, leopard, lion, black and white rhino, giraffe, Jentink’s duiker, plains zebra, mountain zebra, hippo, baboon, hyena and pangolin.