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Everyone who makes films has to be an athlete to a certain degree because cinema does not come from abstract academic thinking; it comes from your knees and thighs” – film-maker and documentarian Werner Herzog.

On Tuesday, September 6, three powerful new films chronicling EIA’s recent undercover investigations into timber smuggling, the ivory trade and whaling will make their world debut in the USA on Nat Geo Wild.

Paul Redman and Clare Perry filming in a Japanese fish market (c) EIA

Broadcast under the collective banner of Crimes Against Nature, Blood Ivory depicts the brutal horror of elephant poaching in Kenya and black market trade in the marketplaces of Hong Kong and China; Making a Killing exposes Iceland’s hunting of endangered fin whales to package and sell for consumption in Japan; and Chainsaw Massacre uncovers the Vietnamese army’s involvement in the widespread smuggling of timber from neighbouring Laos.

Each film follows seasoned EIA investigators in the field as they methodically piece together the clues of wildlife and forest crime and follow evidence trails leading to corrupt officialdom, organised criminal syndicates and grasping businessmen. Along the way, viewers will share the setbacks and successes in films rich with imagery both startling and haunting.

What they won’t see, and possibly won’t suspect, is the long year of preparations and often physically and emotionally demanding work behind the scenes to get three one-hour films in the can.

The project effectively began in 2009, following EIA’s tiger team in China and Nepal for a pilot film eventually broadcast early last year on Nat Geo Wild as Eco Crime Investigators – Inside the Tiger Trade.

The broadcast, first in the USA and subsequently worldwide (and it’s still in heavy rotation), was such a success that further programmes were commissioned.

On location in Kenya with Mary Rice and Dave Currey (c) EIA

Initial meetings with the London-based production company hired by Nat Geo to make the films focused on the likely scope of the three investigations, the probable shooting times and budget requirements for each, and a loose schedule around which investigators would have to fit all their usual campaign work and commitments.

It was in October 2010, when filming was concluded in Iceland and underway in Vietnam, that I was brought onboard as Project Co-ordinator; you could draw up a job description for the role which might run to several sides of A4, or you could just as accurately say my primary function was to help ease the process along as required.

Both EIA and the production company shared the same goal – to make the best programmes possible; naturally, both came at it with different considerations to the fore. The nature of conducting investigations in the field is that you never know what’s going to turn up and where it might lead; the nature of film-making is that you have to satisfy those commissioning the venture that they’re going to end up with a solid narrative arc and a substantial conclusion, preferably before shooting begins.

From the word ‘go’, EIA was adamant that its investigators would not serve as props, nor would they be mouthpieces for scripted lines which might in any way reflect poorly or inaccurately on the organisation, its methodology or its invaluable work. At the same time, we accepted that the film-makers needed to distil often-complex issues in a way that was accurate and wouldn’t leave viewers scratching their collective brows and reaching for the remote control. Looking at the finished products (and I believe I must have done so a score of times for each!), I think it’s fair to say this was achieved remarkably well.

In the field was where problems could most easily arise as directors fretted that they wouldn’t get the key shots they needed within the timeframe allowed, or when they were debriefing an investigator following an emotionally exhausting undercover filming session and needed the same kind of projected energy on take seven as was given the first time around. But our investigators are nothing if not troopers – and on many occasions during this project they were fixers and guides too – and the passion they have for their various campaigns all but radiates from the screen.

Julian Newman interviewed during filming in Laos (c) EIA

When location filming concluded by late March, it remained to fine-tune the narratives, film interviews with the key campaigners and nail down the voice-over and visual inserts such as animated maps..

With security the key consideration for EIA, this was also the time for me to go through each film with a fine toothcomb and ensure that the identity of our undercover Chinese investigator was protected at all times; you’d be amazed at how often somebody’s features can be fleetingly reflected in background mirrors and table tops.

All that remains now is for you to watch the films, and help EIA by spreading the word for others to do the same.

* After the US premiere on Tuesday, the three programmes are due to be broadcast on Nat Geo Wild in other territories, including the UK, later this year – watch our website and blog for details as we learn them.

Paul Newman, Press OfficerPaul Newman

Press Officer

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Logging the Moratorium Zone in Indonesia’s REDD+ Pilot Province

Yesterday, EIA and Telapak released a new briefing paper – Caught REDD Handed- exposing illegal deforestation in Indonesia.

In summary, the briefing exposed how, on the very day Indonesia’s president signed a new moratorium on forest exploitation in areas of peatland and primary forest across Indonesia, EIA and Telapak were filming a Malaysian owned plantation company actively clearing about 5,000 hectares of it in the REDD+ Pilot Province, Central Kalimantan. The moratorium was breached on day one – hardly a good sign for what is already a weak moratorium.

Excavator clearing forest in PT Menteng area May 2011

Investing in Criminal Deforestation

Worse still, EIA’s research also reveals that Norway, Indonesia’s biggest REDD+ donor, stands to profit from the illegal deforestation of moratorium land through the $41.5 million of shares the country’s pension fund holds in the Malaysian company Kuala Lumpur Kepong. This is despite both the moratorium and the REDD+ Pilot Province being cornerstones of a US$ 1 billion Letter of Intent (LoI) on REDD+ between the two countries. Jago’s previous blog on the moratorium

The briefing also reveals how this is not Norway’s only investment in deforestation in Indonesia. EIA’s research reveals that during 2010, Norway’s portfolio of logging and plantations investments had increased in value from $437 million to $678 million, with $145 of this increase being profits to Norway from increased share values.

EIA has repeatedly warned Norway that its Pension Fund is in danger of profiting from the violation of the forests of Indonesia, but, it seems, to no avail. Indeed, as the briefing explains, Norway has actually put more money into, and made more money from deforesting industries in Indonesia and its neighbouring countries over the year, than it has granted to Indonesia under the Letter of Intent on REDD+.

Despite the whole idea of REDD+ being to reverse the structure of financial incentives – from those that encourage deforestation to those that encourage forest protection, the case of Norway’s pension fund reveals how the financial incentives in the forestry sector remain perverse.

Log in land cleared by PT Menteng, May 2011

EIA and Telapak have submitted the briefing to the Indonesian and Norwegian authorities, in the hope that both parties might prevent the moratorium being swept aside by realities in crime riddled Central Kalimantan.

While Indonesia needs to deliver on its pledges to clean up crime, corruption and illegal plantations in Central Kalimantan and nationwide, Norway’s finance ministry needs to get its pension fund REDD Ready by divesting from companies that drive the very deforestation Norway is hoping to see reduce in Indonesia.

For further information on the breach of the moratorium, see the following resources:

EIA/Telapak Press Release in Englishand Bahasa Indonesia

Caught REDD Handed Briefing in English& Bahasa Indonesia

EIA interviewed on Radio Australia

News coverage on Reuters & Mongabay, and in REDD Montor

 

Jago Wadley

Senior Campaigner

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We always need connections…paperwork not important once you have connections, paperwork not important, they are only on paper…they can always be manipulated…”

- Singapore ozone-depleting substances (ODS) dealer

 When it comes to getting insights into what criminals think, EIA and our partners are in a pretty enviable position.

Our undercover investigators spend weeks at a time in the field, often in remote and dangerous places, rubbing shoulders with environmental criminals. Getting to know these people and their worlds. Gathering intelligence, developing leads, responding to opportunities and threats as they come up. Click here to read a previous blog by one of our investigators.

In the process, when our undercover investigators speak one-on-one with traders, create bonds, convince them of their authenticity…that in itself generates a wealth of information about how the illegal trade is conducted.

Who’s buying, who’s selling, what tricks to use to evade detection, and what the stakes are (or are not…) if you get caught.

 “…the government regulation will be avoided. Anyway, you are taking the small risk to earn big profits.”

- Chinese ODS import/exporter

Often, the information gained doesn’t just implicate the trader who’s spilling the beans. The web of complicity can extend to police contacts who should be enforcing the law – but instead tip off the traders before inspections take place; dodgy Customs contacts who’ll “facilitate” the safe passage of a shipment…even government officials have been directly implicated in the illegal trade.

Of course there are people who’ll shake their heads and say, “That’s a criminal you’re talking to. You can’t believe what they say!”

 “I think it’s better if you know who I am. I’m a law officer, I’m a policeman. Beside a policeman, I am also a businessman.”

- Policeman (and merbau smuggler) in Indonesia

 EIA uses specialist investigators. Cover is carefully planned, so it’s totally convincing.

Questions are open, so the traders talk of their own volition.

And verification is crucial. In presenting often explosive investigation findings, things have to be water-tight.

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I suppose that if you must conduct your business from the shadows, when you do find someone you trust, if might feel good to talk. From relief in shared complicity, from your ego being flattered, or to assure your new “customer” that they’re in safe hands – that you’re the only one to deal with, and you know your trade well.

Of course you’re not to know that this new “friend” is actually undercover EIA.

But it’s often precisely because these people are criminals that we should at least listen to what they say – take it as a starting point from where to investigate further. Whilst they can be excellent at describing their activities, they’ll often highlight the factors that make it all too easy for them to continue.

“…(Customs) need money also… all the people still need money. It goes up to the top.”

- Merbau dealer in Indonesia

It’s been said before, but anyway…crime is good at self-preservation. A criminal’s response to enforcement activity (like the interception of cargo) will be to adapt, necessarily at the drop of a hat. What was true of smuggling methods a year ago may since have been abandoned in favour of a different way of doing things. Likewise, as we’ve shown, the end markets can change. For investigators, rather than labouring under misconceptions and coming up short, keeping up to date with these changes is essential.

And while stats can give you an overview and insights, they can’t paint a picture the way a trader does when he describes the “many hands” through which a tiger skin passes – from when it’s skinned from the carcass in India and travels thousands of miles north into China.

But if enforcement agencies don’t see the value in conducting covert operations and engaging traders, how is anyone – including policy makers – except the criminals to know how things really work?

In 2009, traders voiced anticipation at the forthcoming Chinese Year of the Tiger: more demand for tiger skin = higher profits. Tasteless, frightening, but EIA listened. With the species already on the brink, identifying additional, future threats is crucial.

We recommend enforcement agencies speak to one another, share information, and collaborate – both domestically and internationally.

But enforcement agencies might also speak to criminals. Not only when a suspect is in custody, but proactively go out into the field, task covert investigations, dig deep, and hear what these people have to say. In terms of understanding the illegal trade – and saving species – the information gained can be gold dust.

The same information can also, and probably will, reveal uncomfortable truths. But if those truths are too hard to face, or believed to be insurmountable…well then forests, tigers, elephants – all of us – might as well accept defeat.

Charlotte Davies, Intelligence Analyst

Charlotte Davies

Intelligence Analyst

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Saving the world's forests, EIA has been working on this campaign for over 10 years. Credit EIA.

Saving the worlds forests, EIA has been working on this campaign for over 10 years.

Sitting on the Eurostar, once again on my way to Brussels and this time for what should be a defining moment for our campaign against illegal logging, I have been thinking about the amount of time I have spent in meetings and how much I have learned over the years about getting legislation through the European Union.  

As campaigners, we’re supposed to be flexible enough to take whatever is thrown at us, and turn complicated and over-talked issues into something anyone can understand. But nothing prepared me for what I had to deal with when I first went to Brussels. I have sat through meetings where I have literally not understood a single thing that has been said to me as to why something could not possibly happen. This, I have now learned, is the whole idea. A lot of governments I have lobbied over the years have used a similar practice and, drawing on that experience, I decided that if we wanted something to go through and if we couldn’t do it directly, then we would go over, under and around ’the problem’ in our own way.

I remember the first time I was invited to speak to a hearing on forestry issues, which at that time did not have illegal logging issues on the top of its agenda but instead focused on forest issues that were going nowhere. I had been invited by Europe-based NGO’s to talk about our campaign to a large group of Commission representatives from about five different Directorates. (Ministries).  I had no idea what I was walking into. The Commission was keeping everyone focused on some issue that was going around in circles and seemed totally pointless to me, but I was told “this is a consultation and it’s formal, so we need to ensure what we are saying goes on the record”. I sat there with huge admiration for my colleagues as they continued to make their point to the grey suits sitting on a panel in front of us in an enormously large room. Then it was my turn.

EIA have been in Brussels finalising the VPA between Indonesia & the EU

EIA have been in Brussels finalising the VPA between Indonesia & the EU

“Europe has made a lot of money from illegal logging and the illegal trade in timber for so long now that it’s become the norm.” I said. “Traders and importers know who the bad guys are. Our desire for cheap tropical timber means that we’re fuelling corruption, ensuring the middle men make all the money and there’s no chance for anyone wanting to work legally, let alone sustainably. It’s ensuring that those who do the right thing are unable to work with a level playing field and only those who have connections are able to make real profits. Producer countries are losing millions in lost state revenue and we’re creating a new breed of timber barons. Let me tell you how this works in the case of Indonesia.”

“Excuse me, but this is not on the agenda,” said a grey suit.

“Really? I am going to continue because it should be on your agenda.”

And I did. Our main objective in Europewas to have a law that would make it an offence to supply and sell illegally sourced timber. With illegal logging rampant in Indonesia at that time, the EU needed to take some responsibility. It sounded so simple.

Yesterday, EIA and Telapak held a debriefing on the conclusion of an accord between Indonesia and the EU called a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

Indonesia has agreed to implement a credible timber licensing scheme to eliminate illegally produced timber in its trade with the EU. Although this is a milestone for Indonesia, it is the way this agreement was reached that is so extraordinary. Read more about the new VPA.

Over the years, the divide between stakeholders was huge. But yesterday, as we spoke of the journey we have all taken to get to this point, emotions ran high. Compared to the meeting I first went to in Europe all those years ago, this was something entirely different and the feeling of ownership from everyone made the difference.

Faith Doherty

Faith Doherty

Senior Campaigner

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Okay. I’m going to spare you all the ubiquitous yew-turn jokes and get right on with it. After a massive public campaign, the Government has wisely scrapped its plans to privatise and sell off England’s public forests. There were three strands to this and they have backed down on all of them. The consultation on selling the entire 258,000 hectare estate has been scrapped. The plan to quickly sell 15% of the estate (the legal maximum without changes to the law) is on hold, and the clauses in the Public Bodies Bill that would allow the sale of the whole thing have been removed.

It’s a rout.

It’s great news and I congratulate them on seeing sense.

Oak tree Snowdonia - Credit Jason Cheng

Does this mean that England’s forests are now safe and happy? Not quite. The immediate danger has passed but there are a few things to keep our eyes on. First, there is going to be a Commission set up to look into the whole forestry question. This will include the forestry industry and some big NGOs. Yet despite repeated questioning the Minister responsible refused to confirm that it would be held in public and that grass-roots campaigners would be included.

New style of campaigning

Why does this matter so much? Well, the big NGOs were pretty slow and ambiguous on this whole thing, and many have potential conflicts of interest as large landowners. Also, this was not a victory for established NGOs, but a victory for the new style of campaigning – fluid, fast and decentralised. A campaign made up of local groups, loose affinities and co-ordinated through on-line media. EIA made its views clear and we did a little behind the scenes, but this was run largely by ad-hoc groups. The brilliant 38 Degrees helped start the ball rolling but no one outfit can claim the result. It is a new and exciting world for the campaigner.

So we are going to have an enquiry. We will need to watch closely to make sure it doesn’t come up with something just as bad as the abandoned plans.

UK flora and fauna. Credit Jason Cheng

UK flora and fauna. Credit Jason Cheng

But we also need to be positive. We have an impoverished environment in this part of the world, beautiful though it is. We need to improve it. England and the rest of the UK, needs wilder, larger and more biodiverse forests. We need some that are worked for timber and some that are simply left alone for nature to decide what happens. This is a golden opportunity to start having those debates and working out how we can build a better future, for people and wildlife.

EIA already attends many of the meetings and grouping where these things are discussed and we will do what we can to influence the outcome!

Beavers in Scotland

On the subject of British wildness, I thought you might be interested to see this Facebook Groups about wild beavers living free in Scotland. They are escapees and are being rounded up, although they do appear to be a native species. EIA does not have an ‘official’ position on this, but you can check it out and make up your own minds!

EIA Campaigner

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Things are starting to slow down here at HQ, we’re down to just 6 people in the office! Looking back, 2010 has been a very eventful year. I have split this blog in two, firstly, I will review the year and highlight EIA’s achievements. Secondly, and you can find the second part here, we share the fantastic things you have been doing too.

Thank you to everybody who has supported us over the last 12 months, here are just some of our successes this year.

  • Copyright EIA/Mary RiceEIA played a crucial role in ensuring proposals by Tanzania and Zambia to sell 112 tonnes of stockpiled ivory through CITES failed.Despite limited resources we were able to carry out investigations in both countries, gathering irrefutable evidence that levels of poaching are much higher than reported. We published a report and video ‘Open Season’ and presented this evidence at CITES. EIA was the only voice to speak out against the real situation in Zambia and thanks to us both proposals were rejected. Read what Mary had to say.
  • New Chilling Facts Survey, coming soon.We provided evidence to ensure nine leading UK supermarkets reduced their use of climate changing HFCs following our second ‘Chilling Facts’ survey in February.
  • Once again EIA was at the forefront of protecting whales at the IWC. In June, proposals by Japan, Iceland and Norway to be allowed new commercial catch quotas threatened to seriously undermine the 24-year moratorium on whaling. Thankfully, our strenuous lobbying helped to stop them.

  • Copyright EIA/TelepakOur forest team had a major success as the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of banning imports of illegally logged timber and wood products. This follows the success of EIA’s efforts in the US to introduce a ban in 2008. It is a testament to EIA’s tenacity and commitment that after 10 years of campaigning, the world’s two largest markets for wood products, have now shut the door on imports of stolen timber. Read on.

  • Working with our Indonesian partners we highlighted the illegal exploits of timber barons Ricky Gunawan and Hengky Gosal in a damning report: ‘Rogue Traders: The Murky Business of Merbau Timber Smuggling in Indonesia’. The report received huge coverage, putting Gosal uncomfortably in the spotlight. Read Julian’s reaction.
  • Copyright istock.The Year of the Tiger made history as the highest level political meeting ever held for a single species in St Petersburg, at the International Tiger Forum. Debbie Banks and Alasdair Cameron were invited to the Forum, as experts in the field of illegal trade and enforcement in consumer countries. $330 million was pledged and Leonardo di Caprio donated $1 million, all the press were there. Read Debbie’s comments following the forum.

  • Our award-winning documentary Inside: The Tiger Trade continues to be broadcast internationally and is raising our profile telling the rest of the world how we work. Watch out for more documentaries next year. See the trailer here.

None of this would have been possible without your support – Thank you.

Our blog is in its 5th month and I am sure you will agree, it has gone from strength to strength. We have had nearly 5000 visits in that time and by far our most popular post has been this one. Thank you to all the campaigners to have contributed and all of you who have made comments.

I’ll leave you with the words of Louie Psihoyos, director of Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove

The Cove. Credit - thecovemovie.com“EIA is an amazing example of a small group of individuals using great science and passion to help save the environment … in the environmental movement, EIA is the equivalent of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

From everyone at EIA, Seasons Greetings and thank you once again.

Signing out for 2010,

Sophia Cheng

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Apologies for the incorrect link to Jago’s post, you can find the actual article here.

Sorry for any inconvenience caused

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