The 75-year-old U.S. citizen had a stab wound in the neck. His wife, Chryssee Martin, reported the death.
Kenyan Interior Ministry spokesman Mwneda Njoka told CNN that police have launched an investigation and have yet to establish a motive.
Some reports also suggested his death may have been the result of a botched robbery, but questions have been raised that his death might have been related to his work, per The Guardian.
The Star, Kenya reported that Bradley Martin had been traveling around the world with his wife and colleagues Lucy Vigne and Dan Stiles on a mission to identify ivory and rhino markets, the traffickers and the modern-day uses. He was reportedly working on an exposé on the findings.
Bradley Martin, a trained geographer and a former special envoy of the United Nations for rhino conservation, dedicated decades of his life to document the dangerous, unsustainable and illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam, Laos, China, African nations and the United States.
He risked his life by going undercover and posing as a buyer of the illicit items and published numerous articles on the state of wildlife trafficking. Notably, his work helped persuade China to shut down its rhino horn trade in 1993 and then its ivory trade in 2017.
Victory: #China to Ban #Ivory Trade by End of 2017 https://t.co/EZjTApYlNR @NRDC @LeoDiCaprio @WWF @CenterForBioDiv— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1483118165.0
Decades of unprecedented poaching for elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns have threatened the survival of these iconic animals. Bradley Martin told Nomad Magazine last year that he first came to Africa in the 1970s, when there had been a huge slaughter of elephants in East Africa, followed in the 1980s by rhinos.
"In Kenya, there were around 20,000 rhinos in 1970, but by the 1990s, most of the rhinos had been eliminated. The puzzle was: why were all these rhinos being killed, and where was the horn going?" he said.
A UN report found that 60 percent of elephant deaths are at the hands of poachers and at least 20,000 elephants were killed for ivory in 2015.
Save The Elephants, which published Bradley Martin's last report Decline in the Legal Ivory Trade in China in Anticipation of a Ban last year, lamented the loss.
"We are deeply saddened by the death of wildlife-trade researcher Esmond Bradley Martin who died yesterday in Nairobi," the conservation group said. A long term ally for STE, passionate champion of wildlife and meticulous researcher, his loss will be deeply felt by all who knew him."
Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC's Elephant and Rhino program leader, who knew Bradley Martin since the late 1970's said: "Esmond was the individual who invented modern market monitoring for ivory and rhino horn and he blazed an unparalleled trail around the world, endlessly documenting the scale and scope of the ugly trades that continue to push the world's iconic pachyderms to the brink."
China's ivory trade ban is now in effect, making it illegal to sell and buy ivory in the country.
China, one of the world's largest markets for both legal and illegal ivory, has been a major driver of elephant poaching in Africa. Last year, the Chinese government announced its commitment to shut down its legal, domestic ivory markets by the end of 2017. By March 3, about 67 ivory carving factories and shops had been closed, according to Xinhua News. The remaining markets and factories are said to have been shut by Dec. 31, 2017.
Conservationists have welcomed this ban.
"Decades from now, we may point back to this as one of the most important days in the history of elephant conservation," Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a statement. "China has followed through on a great promise it made to the world, offering hope for the future of elephants."
Raising awareness about the ban and reducing demand for ivory, however, is critical for the ban to work, conservationists say. In a recent survey, WWF and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, found that only 19 percent of the people interviewed in mainland China had heard of the ivory ban. But on learning about the ban, 86 percent of the people surveyed said they would support it.
The ivory ban has also received support from celebrities like NBA star Yao Ming. In 2012, conservation groups WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and Save the Elephants, together with Yao Ming, launched a large public awareness campaign to highlight how the demand for ivory was fueling elephant poaching in Africa.
"We can start 2018 hopeful that elephants will be safer now that China has banned commercial ivory sales," WildAid CEO Peter Knights said in a statement. "Prices are down and law enforcement efforts in many parts of Africa and Asia are much improved."
The ivory ban alone, however, won't end the poaching of elephants, Hemley said. "It's equally critical that China's neighbors follow suit and shut down ivory markets across Asia. Only then can we ensure the open trade doesn't simply shift to other countries and offer traffickers safe channels for newly-poached ivory."
"The fate of Africa's elephants depends on global rejection of ivory trade, and governments hold the key to driving this," Hemley added.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
- Japan's Lax Regulations Threaten Chinese Ivory Ban ›
- Ivory Is Still Sold on eBay, Even Though It’s Illegal - EcoWatch ›
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
The warning—made by Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring group—comes just more than a week before the Chinese government will ban ivory retail sales and follows the closure of ivory factories in the country last March.
"Our findings show without doubt that Japan's largely unregulated domestic ivory market is contributing to illegal trade," Tomomi Kitade, the co-author of a recent report, told the Guardian.
Between 2011 and 2016, Japan illegally exported 2.42 tons of ivory—including elephant tusks, antiques and jewelry—to China, where around 95 percent of Japan's illegal ivory exports end up.
"Continuing to allow substantial illegal exports to go to China will undermine Chinese attempts to enforce the ban on its domestic ivory trade," Kitade told the Guardian.
Online sales are fueling the problem, according to the report. Between May and June of 2017, an average of 2,447 ivory items, worth a combined $400,000, were auctioned on a major e-commerce site, according to Traffic.
Antique dealers also play a substantial role in Japan's ivory trade. Despite a Japanese law that requires ivory owners to prove that their product wasn't bought after 1989, the year the ivory trade became internationally banned, researchers found antique dealers buying unregistered elephant tusks.
Japan, however, claims the ivory products in its domestic market weren't illegally acquired. And earlier this year the government passed a law that tightened requirements and inspections for more than 8,000 ivory retailers and manufacturers in the country. Campaigners described the move as inadequate.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has called for the closure of the domestic ivory markets in its member states and bans international trade.
Ivory poaching, which fuels markets, is devastating African elephant populations. Nearly one-third of African elephants were killed between 2007 and 2014, according to the first ever continent-wide survey of the species. Conservation groups estimate 20,000 African elephants are killed each year for their tusks.
Last year, a record 40 tons of ivory was seized across the globe, triple the amount in 2007.
"Our findings show that the Japanese government has a responsibility to act quickly to end illegal exports," Kitade said.
By Rina Herzl
Picture an animal enrobed in a fiery, jigsaw-patterned coat. A creature of such majestic height that it towers amongst the trees. As your eyes make their way up its long neck that appears to defy gravity, you find crowned atop its head two Seussian, horn-like protrusions framing dark, curious eyes fanned by lashes. In its truest sense, the giraffe fits the description of a creature plucked from the pages of a fantastical story. Even its species name, Giraffa camelopardalis, comes from the ancient Greek belief that the giraffe is a peculiar camel wearing the coat of a leopard. Meanwhile, the Japanese word for giraffe and unicorn are one and the same.
Today, we continue to walk the Earth with these awe-inspiring creatures, which range across much of Africa. But giraffes are facing what many are calling a "silent extinction." Public awareness and global action is critically due. "These gentle giants have been overlooked," appeals Sir David Attenborough in BBC's Story of Life documentary series aired in late 2016, urging that "time is running out."
As word begins to get out about the difficulty giraffes are facing, a small, committed cohort are fighting for the species. They are working diligently in the field to learn more about the animals and their populations, cooperating with governments to preserve land giraffes depend on, and collaborating with communities to conserve their wildlife. Meanwhile, others are championing for giraffes on the legal frontlines, advocating for further protections. In particular, wildlife advocates have called for great protections at the international level, as well as domestic restrictions on trade in giraffe parts in the U.S.
The sharp decline of giraffe numbers over the past three decades led to an official change in their conservation status in December 2016, when the giraffe was "uplisted" from Least Concern status to Vulnerable—more specifically, "Vulnerable to Extinction" in the wild—on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List. (Listings under the IUCN don't come with specific protections, but provide valuable information about species' status as well as attention to the threats they face). In making the decision, the IUCN cited an ongoing population decline of 36 to 40 percent between 1985 and 2015. This represents a change from approximately 106,191 to 114,416 mature individuals in 1985 down to 68,293 in 2015. (It's important to note that this population count is of mature individual giraffes, as giraffe reproduction is inherently slow to replace lost population. A long gestation period of 15 months typically yields only one calf, and those calves are vulnerable to predation by wild dogs, hyenas, leopards and lions. Approximately 50 to 75 percent of all young giraffes perish due to predation, one of the highest mortality rates among animals).
Giraffes' updated IUCN conservation listing is "a wake-up call," said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Giraffe scientists and conservation NGOs are all working to raise awareness of the giraffe crisis and prevent it."
One of these efforts is currently playing out in the U.S. where the giraffe is not currently protected by law. In April 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society International, The Humane Society of the United States, International Fund for Animal Welfare and Natural Resources Defense Council filed a legal petition to protect giraffes under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). An endangered listing under the ESA would come with a ban on most imports and sales of giraffe trophies, bone carvings and other giraffe "products." A listing would also send an urgent message to the world community to protect this majestic species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not yet responded to the petition, though the 90-day period within which the agency is supposed to respond has passed.
"The Endangered Species Act is one of the most effective tools for species conservation," said Sanerib. "Given the significant imports to the U.S. of giraffe bones, bone carvings, skins, and trophies, the U.S. is undeniably a part of the decline of giraffes and an ESA-listing would raise awareness about this fact and increase scrutiny of our imports."
Aggregate giraffe populations are on a downward trend in Africa, but some of the nine giraffe subspecies are suffering worse than others. The Masai giraffe population, the tallest of the subspecies with a darker star-shaped pattern coat, halved between 1985 and 2015. The number of reticulated giraffes, which live in the horn of Africa and have a bright neatly-patterned coat, declined nearly 80 percent in the same period. Roughly 400 West African giraffe remain in Niger and Nubian giraffe number at only 650. Today, giraffes have become extirpated or locally extinct in at least seven African countries and have vanished from most of West Africa. It's not all bad news, though: Certain populations, including ones in Tanzania and and South Africa, are growing due to breeding for legal game hunting and tourism.
Biologists have found that, unlike other species, giraffe will not associate or interbreed between subspecies. For example, in Kenya, three species coexist, the Masai, Reticulated and Nubian giraffe, and though they may encounter one another they each maintain a unique genetic makeup and do not interbreed. Dr. Julian Fennessy comments that giraffe are "so much more unique than many other species out there that do interbreed and have viable offspring."
This brings into focus that: While giraffe populations are plummeting, scientists are still making discoveries about giraffes. For example, giraffes are currently recognized as one species with nine subspecies. Each subspecies visually distinguishable by their different coat patterns. This understanding, however, may be changing: Recent scientific analyses suggest that giraffes may be four or even up to nine distinct species. Kirstie Rupport, who works on giraffe conservation in Kenya for San Diego Zoo Global, believes giraffes are finally gaining "heightened conservation attention" given these recent discoveries. She reminds us that this research "shines a light on how little we know about a species that is so iconic and how little we know relative to other big species."
These genetic findings could be cause to separate the species taxonomically. Once separated, those species facing greater threats would merit protections under international law, including endangered or critically endangered listings on the IUCN Red List. In 2007, Dr. David Brown, a biologist who did an extensive genetic study on giraffe, said that "lumping all giraffes into one species obscures the reality that some kinds of giraffe are on the brink. Some of these populations number only a few hundred individuals and need immediate protection." Ten years later, international protection is still lacking.
Changing their classification, however, won't be easy. Should it happen, it will "be a very slow process and more work on classical taxonomy will be required before initiating this change," said Stephanie Fennessy, co-director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
So, what is ultimately causing the decline of giraffe populations? As with species the world over: human-created pressures. Giraffe declines across the continent are tied to to habitat loss, civil unrest, illegal hunting and poaching, and ecological changes (like those related to mining activity and climate change). In each country and region, the specific threats vary.
With respect to habitat, Rupport points to "the need for conservation partnerships, both in the private and public sectors to protect those large tracts of land, not just for giraffes, but also for the many African megafauna that really need it in order to survive." Coexistence between humans and wildlife is a palpable issue in biodiverse regions across the globe. Giraffes are a species that do little to disrupt human livelihood in these regions and even still the "establishment of community conservancies [in Kenya] really has given a lot of hope for coexistence between pastoralist people in this region and wildlife," Rupport said.
In Uganda, there is a growing interest in oil exploration, right in the heart of giraffe range. As a preventative measure, Giraffe Conservation Foundation and the Uganda Wildlife Authority "translocated" or moved 18 Rothschild's and Nubian giraffes across the Nile in 2016, to protect giraffes from the potential impacts of prospective oil mining.
In Kenya, an ongoing drought is posing a problem. No longer an issue reserved for polar bears living at the edge of the planet, climate change is now impacting giraffes as well by exacerbating drought conditions. Across Africa and other parts of the world, climate change impacts vegetation through desertification—a process by which fertile land becomes desert—negatively impacting people and wildlife alike. Rupport described that "[This] past year Kenya really faced an extreme drought and is still in the midst of it." She added, "When [giraffes] face extreme drought in these places the regeneration of grass for livestock and for wildlife species is really compromised." This not only impacts availability of food for wildlife, but also that for humans, and can lead communities to resort to hunting wildlife for bushmeat, as found by Rupport and Derek Lee of the Wild Nature Institute. As well, with smaller ungulates perishing due to increased drought, lion predation increases on giraffe young. Rupport states "climate change—at least, extreme drought and connecting that to climate change—is one of the most pressing challenges in this region that we're facing on a daily basis."
"Across central Africa and parts of eastern Africa poaching has been a really big threat in recent years," said Dr. Julian Fennessy. In Kenya and Tanzania giraffes are experiencing dramatic increases in illegal killing for their meat as well as for trophies. These are regions in which giraffe numbers are already under considerable strain, and illegal hunting is emerging as a real threat to the species. TRAFFIC, a leading NGO working globally on the trade of wild animals and plants, is prioritizing giraffes in their investigative work and is planning "to carry out work on giraffe trade in parts of East Africa, in response to the rising number of reports we've encountered of giraffe parts in trade." And though illegal hunting is becoming a greater issue, many advocates, including Sanerib, argue that legal hunting is also contributing to the decline of giraffes.
Legal trophy hunting for all species continues to give rise to heated debate in the conservation community regarding whether it is a viable conservation tool. "If well-managed, trophy hunting is a form of sustainable use that can provide direct income and benefits from wildlife resources to local communities," said Dr. Richard Thomas of TRAFFIC. The key term to question here is whether it is "well-managed." However, evidence is mounting against hunting as a conservation tool. Research suggests that little money made from big game hunting actually goes to local communities and the amount dedicated to conservation efforts itself is negligible. That same study found that trophy hunting makes up as little as 1.8 percent of tourism revenues across the continent. Growing evidence also suggests that legal trophy hunting can compromise the genetic health of a species and that it engenders illegal hunting and wildlife crime. (Read more about the debate on legal hunting as a conservation tool here).
What conservationists agree on is that urgent action is needed for the protection giraffes. Currently, giraffes are not internationally protected by trade laws or by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). CITES regulates and restricts the international trade of threatened species; as giraffes are listed as Vulnerable, they just miss the mark to gain protection, despite the fact that some subspecies on the brink. "Giraffes are not protected under CITES and we know that the U.S. is a significant importer of giraffe trophies," said Sanerib. Between 2006 and 2015, an average of 374 giraffe trophies were imported into the US per year. That is more than a giraffe a day.
The Center for Biological Diversity and their petition co-sponsors believe protection under the ESA is critical. "The U.S. is undeniably a part of the decline of giraffes and an ESA-listing would raise awareness about this fact and increase scrutiny of our imports," said Sanerib.
And this fall, the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species will decide whether to protect giraffes, which periodically and cyclically cross international borders or did so historically, under that convention. Angola proposes listing giraffes on CMS Appendix II, which would require the establishment of agreements to protect and restore species habitat.
Though there is much to be done, it seems considerable strides are being made to learn more about giraffes and to protect them, from enacting greater legal protection and employing concerted anti-poaching measures to improving land-use planning and developing stewardship programs with local communities.
"I think giraffes capture our imaginations to begin with, but the more we learn about these animals the more fascinating they become," said Sanerib. "Raising awareness about the decline of giraffes is so important, we have to halt their decline before it is too late."
This is just the beginning of a giraffe recovery. With growing concern over their decline will hopefully propel the public to call on NGOs, governments, scientists, communities and advocates to come together to protect and elevate this remarkable species so that it may thrive on our planet once again.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Earth Island Journal.
By Michael Tatarski
Throughout the month of March, a unique graffiti campaign popped up on the walls of several streets in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, the hyperactive commercial capital of Vietnam. The works differed from the usual tags and designs that adorn urban areas around the world. The graffiti pieces, 17 in all, carry a simple message: "Save the rhinos" or "Cứu tê giác" in Vietnamese.
Vietnam is home to one of the largest African rhino horn consumer bases in the world, in addition to being a key transit point for shipments to China. Users of rhino horn believe it can cure various illnesses, in addition to a number of other supposed health benefits. There is no scientific basis to back these beliefs up.
The graffiti in Ho Chi Minh City aims to educate locals on the importance of this issue. According to Nhi Thoi, program manager at the Center of Hands-on Actions and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE), the street art is part of an awareness-raising campaign to inform people on the topic that began in 2013. The group specializes in initiating and developing environment and "climate change movements in Vietnam," according to their website.
"We've been running the 'stop using rhino horn campaign' for several years," Nhi said at CHANGE's office in suburban Ho Chi Minh City recently. "We produce a lot of PSAs (public service announcements) and we've invited a lot of celebrities."
A graffiti picture that is part of a campaign to save the rhino in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Michael Tatarski / Mongabay
One of these PSAs aired on television screens located next to elevators at some of the city's apartment buildings that normally show product advertisements. In the video, national celebrities explained the need to save the world's remaining rhinos, while graphic images of poached animals with their horns sheared off drove the message home.
Nhi explained that the aim is to create social pressure in order to persuade rhino horn users to change their ways.
"It's really hard to tackle the end-users, for example businessmen and high-ranking government officials, so we need to go around and talk to many other people," she said. The graffiti project began as a low-cost way to further this public conversation. "When I drove around the city I saw a lot of empty spaces, like dirty walls, and sometimes they had been vandalized. I asked myself, 'Why don't we paint our message on the walls?'"
Suby One, a French graffiti artist based in Ho Chi Minh City. Michael Tatarski / Mongabay
Suby One, a prominent French graffiti artist based in Ho Chi Minh City, has collaborated with CHANGE for three years and played a prominent role in bringing the rhino art campaign to life. "They contacted me and told me they want to change the audience," he said.
Instead of communicating through TV ads, CHANGE would bring its message to the streets in hopes of reaching the general public.
"They had celebrities before and now they want to reach the real people so that they know the rhino issue," Suby said. "They wanted it so that we could paint and people would come and talk to us while we were working."
Suby and CHANGE, in partnership with global conservation organization WildAid, invited 11 local and international artists to create designs featuring rhinos. It took months for Nhi and her team to obtain local government approval.
A graffiti picture that is part of a campaign to save the rhino in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Michael Tatarski / Mongabay
"From the beginning, I wanted our message to be very aggressive, so I wanted the artists to draw something about a dead rhino or something stunning," she said. "But since we're doing this in public, we needed approval from the authorities and they didn't want something negative."
CHANGE finally got the green light in early March and their team jumped into action, with an aim to complete the artwork in one month. The pieces, spread across a number of streets in Ho Chi Minh City's central District 1, are striking. Each portrayal is unique, but all carry the same plea: Save the rhino.
A graffiti picture that is part of a campaign to save the rhino in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Michael Tatarski / Mongabay
"I want to create love for rhinos," Nhi said. "In some images we had differences, like the rhino's horn exploding or the shadows of other rhinos that weren't actually there. We wanted to convey the message that the rhino is close to extinction and needs protection."
According to the conservation organization Save the Rhino, at the end of 2015 there were an estimated 30,000 rhinos remaining in the wild in Africa and Asia. At the start of the 20th century millions of rhinos lived in these regions. Vietnam in particular continues to be a major player in the illicit international rhino horn trade. According to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, in March 2017 alone there were two seizures—one in Bangkok and one in Hanoi—totaling 67 rhino horns. The Bangkok case involved a Vietnamese national, while no suspects were named in the other.
TRAFFIC used the opportunity to call on the Vietnamese government to honor its commitment to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and prosecute wildlife crimes more vigorously. According to the organization, less than 1 percent of criminals involved in such activity in the country are successfully prosecuted.
The graffiti campaign has been a bright spot, though and garnered extensive attention from the public and the media.
"In the beginning they [people in the neighborhoods] didn't really support us, but when they saw us clean the walls and draw beautiful pictures they warmed up and were really supportive," Nhi said. "They brought us water and cake and brought their kids to play with us and talk about rhinos."
Suby believes there has been an outpouring of support because of the role art can play in activism.
"I think graffiti is something new here and people are getting interested in it," he said. "You can reach more people with art—especially on the streets … I think touching the people and the neighbors, that's the strength of street art."
Philip Genochio, a British expat based in Ho Chi Minh City, was also involved in the campaign as an artist.
"For me, it goes beyond rhinos specifically," he wrote via email. "It's part of a much bigger problem of wildlife of all descriptions being killed in the name of vanity and ignorance."
His design in the campaign features the outlines of many small rhinos forming the shape of a large rhino. "I wanted something that had impact; something that would at least get people's attention," he said. "Also, I liked the idea of using vivid colors to represent happiness, joy and well-being … we should have these thoughts in our minds when thinking about wildlife."
Genochio added that he wishes to see the campaign spread an appreciation for art as well.
"On a lighter note, I hope people see the benefit that graffiti and street art brings to a city and its neighborhoods," he said. "It's uplifting, it's characterful, it's inspiring … why wouldn't you want to see this around the city?"
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
With possibly as few as 4,000 snow leopards surviving in the wild, a new report from TRAFFIC has found that hundreds of the endangered big cats are being killed illegally each year across their range in Asia's high mountains.
Published ahead of today's UN meeting on snow leopards and International Snow Leopard Day on Sunday, An Ounce of Prevention: Snow Leopard Crime Revisited estimates that between 221-450 snow leopards have been poached annually since 2008—a minimum of four per week. But this number could be substantially higher since many killings in remote areas go undetected.
Combatting poaching and illegal trade of snow leopards is a key objective of the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), which unites all 12 snow leopard range countries with intergovernmental and non-governmental organization partners. The GSLEP Secretariat is among the organizers of today's UN meeting.
"TRAFFIC's analysis confirms the worrying scale of illegal killing of snow leopards," said James Compton, senior program director with TRAFFIC. "This urgent wake-up call provides a blueprint for GSLEP action at national and transboundary levels to protect snow leopards from threats posed by poaching and trafficking."
Using a combination of methods, including seizure records, market surveys and expert interviews to provide the first quantitative estimates of the scale of snow leopard poaching and trafficking since 2003, the report found that the majority of snow leopards are killed in retaliation for attacks on livestock (55 percent) or by non-targeted methods, such as snares (18 percent).
Only 21 percent of snow leopards were poached specifically for the illegal trade in their pelts and products. However, the report found that over half the retaliatory and non-targeted poaching incidents result in opportunistic attempts to sell, contributing to the estimated 108-219 snow leopards that are illegally traded each year.
Interestingly, the report also found a steep decline in the number of snow leopards observed in trade and in markets, particularly in China, which suggests that demand could be falling—perhaps due to increased enforcement.
"Even if there is reduced demand for snow leopard skins, the killing will continue unless we all work together to drastically reduce human-wildlife conflict and ensure that local communities can co-exist with snow leopards," said Rishi Sharma, World Wildlife Fund Snow Leopard Program leader and co-author of the report. "Compensation schemes and innovative predator-proof corrals are making a difference but we urgently need to expand these to benefit communities—and snow leopards—across Asia's high mountains."
The report calls on governments to mitigate human-wildlife conflict by preventing snow leopards from killing livestock, offsetting the costs of livestock losses and expanding community-based conservation programs. It also recommends strengthening both national and transboundary law enforcement, especially as less than a quarter of known cases of snow leopard poaching were investigated and just 14 percent were prosecuted.
The report also recommends that TRAFFIC maintains the snow leopard crime database that was developed as part of the current research. The database contains records of seizures and observations of snow leopard killing, capture and trade dating back to 1989.
"The snow leopard crime database is a critical resource for everyone involved in efforts to reduce poaching and illegal trade in the species and will help to target interventions at key points across snow leopard range," said Kristin Nowell, lead author of the report. "But we need to expand efforts to monitor activity on the internet and social media as snow leopard traffickers may be moving online to try to evade law enforcement."
According to the report, more than 90 percent of the reported snow leopard poaching occurred in five range countries: China, Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Tajikistan. Nepal was also flagged for having relatively high poaching levels considering its relatively small population of snow leopards. China and Russia were most frequently identified as destinations for animals poached in other countries. Afghanistan has also been a major illegal market for snow leopard furs over the past decade.