We have just got back in to Cape Town after a fascinating two weeks in Asia. My eyes were certainly opened up by what is happening over there. There is clearly no recession and the appetite for buying and consuming more and more branded goods is an average person’s “sport” and hobby. Many Asians seem to work so that can eat, shop and shop! And do they live well!
I delivered 6 lectures in three countries during my two weeks. During these lectures I discussed and debated the rhino horn and ivory dilemmas that we face amongst many other topics. In my Philippines lecture, I focused more on the ivory issue due to their love of religious ivory icons.
I challenged the Manila audience, made up of the wealthiest of the wealthy, to question their need to use ivory. Afterwards, one of the audience who has been to Africa a few times took me aside and after numerous triple whiskies (he alone must have finished off a bottle of the best) he loosened up enough for the Asian politeness to be overtaken with a directness and clarity that I have seldom experienced anywhere. His message was very clear and very simple… So long as South Africa sends out messages to the world that it is okay to consume ivory and rhino horn products, they will keep consuming the products in greater and greater quantities.
It is that simple in his view.
According to him. Africa sends out very mixed and confusing messages. On the one hand, we say our rhino are in peril and on the other we allow people to shoot rhinos! Ditto with elephants! He says that Asians will keep on consuming ivory and rhino products in greater and greater quantities so long as its legal to buy ivory and rhino products (even if some of the products arrive in Asia via the illegal routes)
He was even clearer with his suggested solutions….. Either (a) we have ample stocks and that we can then continue to trade with increasing numbers of Asian buyers or (b) we make all trade in ivory and rhino illegal and if that happens the consumption of ivory and rhino products will be largely eliminated. There is no middle ground in his view. SA in particular needs to stop sending out mixed messages
Having listened to all these viewpoints over the past two weeks entrenches my view that the pro-trade lobby argument is fundamentally flawed as it does not take into account that the number of Asian consumers of ivory and rhino products will continue to escalate as will the volume that they consume if we allow the legal trade to flourish….
On another front, there is a passionate bunch of folk in Hong Kong that are pressurising their Govt to burn their confiscated ivory stocks. They have something like 26 tons of ivory in large warehouses that in their view should be burnt as a clear demonstration to all about the value of ivory. They have a petition that they would like us to sign and circulate at https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Hong_Kong_Government_Please_Burn_the_Confiscated_Ivory_Stockpile/