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Holly Dublin  






CITES Treaty; Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species; Elephants  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
16 Oct 2002

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Chadwick interview with Holly Dublin
Holly in Switzerland, AC in Little Rock Recorded in 2A

1:19 54321 MARK 1:26

1:39 My name is Holly Dublin and I am the chair of the IUCN species survival commissions African elephants specialist group. I have been the chair of this group since 1992.

AC - so that is 10 yrs that you have been the chair of the group

HD - that is right. 10 long years. But very challenging

AC - What are the proposals now for lifting the ban on trade in ivory?

2:18 HD - as some might be very familiar. There are currently 4 direct proposals on the table from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe for trade in ivory. And it is not of course for an absolute opening of unlimited trade it is for a request in restricted trade over a specified time line and under specified conditions. The additional proposal is from Zambia which is requesting that their populations be downlisted with obviously the eventual intent to trade ivory. 2:58

2:59 AC - and why are these countries asking to trade in ivory now?

3:04 HD - well, this is nothing new for these 4 countries. The 4 together represent a very very significant portion of Africa's known elephant populations. These have been populations that have all been in gross, at least over the past 10 years, and for all intents and purposes, prior to that as well. And they are in a situation where elephants are dying natural deaths, elephants are removed through management options and they are accumulating ivory which is all from legal source w/in their countries, and they follow the obvious principals of sustainable utilization believing that their resources should be used and conserved and should the proceeds of that management should be used for continual conservation of the species. 3:59

4:00 AC - why is it that many conservation orgs are against these proposals?

4:06 HD -1 think in general there is a fear that is probably not w/out justification that there continues to be illegal trade, and this illegal trade may or may not be in anyway linked to any actions in southern Africa. Nonetheless we know there is a continuing demand for ivory and that demand will be met and I believe that the general view is that if there is any legal trade it stimulates or allows for further illegal trade. The problem is that that belief system has not actually been authenticated. It continues to be a belief system. It is extremely difficult to make those linkages. 4:50

4:51 AC - So people think that even if you open even a small legal trade in ivory then poachers will start shooting elephants elsewhere illegally and they will get that ivory into the market place and people won't know where it has come from.

5:10 HD -1 think that that is the fear, but I think that also we can't be fooling ourselves. Even when there is no illegal ivory trade going on there is illegal killing of elephants and this illegal killing of elephants, although it may have gone through a decline it appears to be going through another continual rise with or without legal trade, and this is something that we have been tracking for some period of time. It is not dissimilar to what happened when rhinos where also put on appendix one and there was a ban on the trade on rhino horn, and we saw that trade drop off very dramatically to begin with and then over time as new conduits were found, as new deals were done we found that the rate of illegal killing began to increase again. And this is be the killing is demand driven and that killing will continue as long as there is a demand 6:07

6:08 AC - Dr. Dublin, it is a little hard for those of us who are not in Africa and are don't study elephants all of the time. That is are elephants an endangered species or are they not? They seem to be plenty of elephants in some places anyway.

6:27 HD - well, you just pointed out what is probably they biggest dilemma and the biggest challenge in the conservation of the African elephant. There are other similar large, long-lived species that are under the same conditions. And what this means is that in different parts of the range of the Af elephant their conservation status is dramatically different so whereas in west Af where the species numbers where dramatically reduced in the 1900s prior to the 1900s, prior to the 1800s that population in west Af is in a very much more threatened situation than in populations in southern Af which have not been going through a decline, to the contrary they have been increasing. And there are many reasons for these different things happening but the fact of the matter is that one can not treat the Af elephant as if it is one animal and no matter where it lives it has the same stat conservation status. The truth is be of historical reasons, be of human population growth be of human activities the species is under very diff threats in diff parts of its range, and this presents an enormous dilemma for those people tasked with conserving the elephant. Be quite frankly it can cause actually opposite actions to achieve conservation, and this is a very difficult concept to get across, be it can not be described in a few words.

8:01 AC - but what is do difficult about having one set of policies for one part of a continent and another set of policies for another part of the continent?

8:12 HD - well I think that this is very much where the Af rain states, and when I say rain states I am referring to those countries that have Af elephant populations. In their own internal deliberations this is very much the point to which they have arrived to say look, your situation differs from ours and you must do something that is diff from us, and we all accept that. But I think where it comes into a problem is if for example your management action requires that you involve or engage in internationally trade in order to gamer the resources to continue conserving your population, you then run the risk of being in a trade that could effect other countries. Now, their conservation status becomes the most important thing. So I don't think anyone is for example questioning whether the southern Africans have taken care of their elephants. It is absolutely clear that they have. But what is now at the table is but if you continue to take care of your elephants you manage them as you always have does that present a threat to those of us where our elephants are much more endangered and much more threatened with extinction. And this is just an incredible, difficult dilemma for managers. And this is the nature of globalization which is that something that I do in my backyard can effect somebody that lives on the other side of the world, and I think we are all experiencing the impacts of globalization. And there is nothing different than this.

AC - Dr. Dublin, what do you think is going to happen at the CITES mtg? What will the decision be?

9:58 HD - Well, I am ever hopeful. In my view I believe that this is an issue that is very very important to the Af rain states. I believe that they give it tremendous credence, I believe they give it tremendous consideration and I believe that w/in their own deliberations, as they have demonstrated to us before they will find their own answer. And I think what we all need to do is to support them technically, to support them in terms our moral, in terms of our belief in them by saying look you have your own problems and we are here to give you support to solve those problems. You know I don't want to speculate in terms of votes be maybe in the best case scenario it won't have to come to votes at all. 10:46

AC - there are conservation critics that say the whole CITES idea - the whole idea in this convention in trade and endangered species is corrupted by politics and that the countries that favor utilization and some would say exploitation of wildlife will abnd together and swap votes and buy votes in some cases in order to get to the point where elephants and whales and other desirable forms of wildlife are hunted, are used.

11:29 HD - Right well, I mean these sorts of arguments don't surprise any of us be they could be said about the trade in any commodities. They could be said about any government, they could said about any blocking actions, they could be said about any block voting. We follow the deliberations of the WTO, we follow the Johannesburg summit, we know that powerful countries do what they need to do to continue their way of life, and my own feeling is that the exact thing could be said on the opposite side, and this is the very sad thing which is that we would all be kidding ourselves to say that the politics all sit one side and not on the other side. There is politic in it. And I think this is the saddest thing for the CITES treaty is that over time this elephant issue has taken on a life of its own. And if you look for many years as I have -1 worked for my org merely on CITES, not just on elephants, and of course everything was subordinated to elephants. And I think that there are some pressing conservation issues in the world that involve trade in wild species that never get properly addressed be the elephant issue has reached such a peak of political action but for myself the only way that I can believe that this can come right is through discussion and I think that they have to continue doing this, and I myself have seen progress over the years. And it doesn't mean that it can be solved today. And I don't believe that by trying to take apart a treaty that has been existence for over 25 years, that this is really also the best way to go. I think that they have to go through negotiations and they have to plot their way and for some of us of course it is extremely frustrating, and I imagine it is even more frustrating if you are not in the main stream politic be like all of us that sat by watching what was going on in Jberg, we felt very helpless that we couldn't help our own world environment no matter how hard we work. I think the same is true here. People love elephants. People want to help them. People want to believe there will be elephants for themselves and their children and their grandchildren and their great grandchildren and they feel very helpless in such a hig level political debate. 13:46

13:47 AC - Dr. Dublin thank you for speaking with us.

AC and Holly talk about leaving WWF - after 22 years she doesn't come to DC much
- very interested in the impact of HIV AIDS in the conservation of natural resources in Africa - working n this - watching a lifetimes worth of work being washed out from
under my feet like sand as all my colleagues are dying - it is pretty devastating...still
actively involved in elephant protection - currently a Sr policy advisor for IUCN. I just can't believe that a person can live their life and have their career in Africa and not notice what is going on with HIV AIDS. I am a little bit shocked actually by many of my colleagues that just seem to think it is going to go away.
Working for IUCN - doing consultancy work.. .working on protected areas.. ...just finished a job for WWF in South Africa

AC telling Holly we are interested to know what she is working on.. ..Holly talking about what she is working on - was in an accident in Safrica - medical rehab in Switzerland...

19:28 AC - one other thing -are you aware of Katy Payne'e work.. significant do you think it is?

19:35 HD - well, it is in its experimental phase, and we are all interested in how far it can go - to me I haven't yet - you know partly be the team and a number of the people that are working on it are members of the Af elephants specialist group - you know they are still working on the almost technical aspects as opposed to the practical, implementation aspects as so to me we cant say until what we are working on practically speaking. You see the size of those forests - and some of them could be rather silent forests. You could be putting up a lot of acoustically equipment and not hear anything which would also be important information. So to me, I support it in the same way I support all of the research and development that so many members of our group are working on and it just tears me apart ¿ my whole life - that all of these people are trying to work for elephants and all of these people are well intended and everybody is trying to work for elephants, but you know it is a brutal kind of word in a way and you know I have got to tell you - 10 years as the chair, and many more years as a go btwn person, and I have got to tell you it has been pretty tough. It is really never been a comfortable place to sit - but I still believe and have faith in my colleagues. They will work it out 21:10

21:51 end of tape

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