Archive for May, 2011

The rhino is under siege – again*. Poaching and the smuggling of their horns has now been acknowledged as out of control. This is evidenced by the flurry of information from the field – particularly from South Africa (SA). Emails and text messages come in pretty much on a weekly basis.  Last night I received a text that reads: “pregnant white rhino cow shot 6-8 days ago @ Loodswaai GR, Cullinan.  Both horns removed…”  Loodswaai Game Reserve is not far from Pretoria, and boasts a luxury lodge. One assumes it’s well resourced and policed.   It’s like watching a juggernaut spiralling out of control in slow motion.

Check out the figures: in 2000, 7 rhino were poached in SA; in 2010, 333 were poached. So far this year, we’re looking at a running total of around 162.  That’s about one a day. The South Africans themselves have said they are struggling to cope – are not coping, in fact.  Despite bringing in the army and the police to help, they are now recruiting more rangers. South Africa is not alone.

Kenya has also seen a spate of poaching.  When I visited last month sources claimed that poachers were being commissioned to get rhino horn for as much as $25,000.  That’s a lot of money in a country where 60% of the population live on less than $1 a day.   And the penalties?  Trifling: as far as the poor guy struggling to feed his family is concerned, it’s well worth taking the risk. Many have – and have also paid the ultimate price. Poachers in both Kenya and South Africa have been killed – 14 in South Africa this year alone.  The real criminals, the middlemen and bosses of the organised criminal syndicates that perpetrate the crimes, continue to operate with impunity.

Last week the Ivory and Rhinoceros Enforcement Task Force of CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) met to discuss how to combat the organised syndicates that target rhinos and elephants.  The message coming out of the meeting is that there is an urgent need for a coordinated effort at a national and international level.  It’s a bit like listening to a broken record and while we talk around the houses, it’s business as usual for the Mafioso types who are raking in the dosh – and another step towards annihilation for the beleaguered pachyderms.  Actions speak louder than words, but action seems to take an age.  The message is also confused.  Dawie Groenwald, a game farmer from Limpopo province in SA was arrested last year – along with eleven others –on charges relating to rhino poaching.  The case, still pending, has captured world attention: a criminal syndicate in action.  Yet the bail for Groenwald, the alleged leader of the group, has been reduced from R 1 million (about US $140,000) to R 100,000 (US $14,000).  What does that say?

As for where the horn is going – and why?  Don’t get me started…

Mary Rice Executive Director


* In 1992 EIA led a campaign to ban the trade of rhino horn used for traditional Chinese medicine. Taiwan was arguably the largest east-Asian market for rhinoceros horn, and horns were openly displayed in the windows of traditional pharmacies, giving the impression that buying and using rhino horn was an acceptable activity. Four days after we launched a boycott of Taiwanese goods, the Taiwan government announced a ban on domestic rhino horn trade and within months there were reports that the poaching of rhinos across Africa had decreased.  Further undercover  footage of one tonne of rhino horn in China – at least 330 dead rhino – prompted China to take enforcement action on domestic rhino horne trade.

Following intense pressure from the NGO community and widespread publicity, the Taiwanese authorities clamped down on rhino horn sales, While the reduction in poaching may have resulted to some extent from increased anti-poaching effort in some range States, consumer education and effective enforcement in Taiwan played a significant part in reducing the poaching pressure on rhino populations at that time.


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Did you get to see last night’s Panorama, Track my Trash? What did you think? We would love to hear your feedback.

If you missed it you can catch up on BBC iplayer here.

System Failure: The UK’s harmful trade in electronic waste

System Failure: The UK’s harmful trade in electronic waste

It’s times like this that make this job really worthwhile. I’ve been amazed by the reactions of the public and industry to EIA’s report “System Failure: The UK’s harmful trade in electronic waste” and last night’s Panorama. I think the programme did a great job of explaining this huge problem and our responsibility as consumers to ensure that our old junk doesn’t end up poisoning children in developing countries. EIA was involved with the programme from its inception and I think it’s been a good example of successful collaboration.

But our work doesn’t stop here, now that our findings have been published we will follow up the investigation in order to push for real change in how the UK handles its electronic waste. We plan to engage with industry to encourage them to clean up their act, to work on improving the enforcement of existing regulations and to look into fixing the systematic failings that have led to the colossal environmental problem. We also waiting to see what the Environment Agency’s reaction to our work will be.

Read EWC’s response to our investigation, similarly South London Waste Partnership have also made a statement.

If you’re concerned about the fate of your e-waste here are a few tips and questions you ask:

  •  The biggest way to reduce the harmful impacts of e-waste is to reduce the amount of electronic goods we throw out. Before updating your laptop or mobile phone, please think about whether you really do need a new one, often we tend to get rid of perfectly functional electronic items just to keep up with the latest trends.
  • If you do have an old item that you want to get rid of try internet recycling networks like Freecycle.
  •  If you do have e-waste that you want to dispose of try to find out whether the company disposing of the goods or your local council recycling site audits the trail of all electronic goods left in their care.
  •  Some councils will contract reuse companies to repair and reuse items left at their recycling sites. EIA totally supports the reuse of electronic goods but our investigations showed that some reuse companies don’t test and repair broken TVs before exporting them. If your local council uses a reuse company the company should supply details of how many electronic goods they were able to repair and export and how many they had to send for recycling and the final destinations of all those electronic goods.
As consumers we have the biggest say of all, but we need to start speaking out.

This investigation took 18 months from start to finish and it’s expensive to get the quality of evidence EIA is renowned for.

If you want to help us to continue to tackle e-waste text EIAA11 £3 to 70070.

Fionnuala Walravens
Fin Walravens
Team Leader of the Global Environment Campaign
We’ve recieved lots of feedback following last night’s programme, here are just a few of your comments:
  • @Sarafino1: I work in the Recycling Industry but not electricals, so have to say shocked!
  • @NAbeyie_x:  I was rather surprised, I didn’t think something like that went on.. Its good to know
  • @EmilyvonR: I thought it was a depressing insight into what is going on but I wonder if people will now be put off from recycling…
  • @amiemiddleton: It was difficult to watch as some companies try to do the right thing and are held up at every stage by gov bodies!
  • @Crook3rs: Very good programme last night raising awareness of the illegal dumping of e-waste. Should be heightened as not something most people would be aware of ordinarily. Also very moving programme, highlighting the damage to the environment and health of people in the regions involved.
  • @ITSAmanda: I do so hope your report helps to make a positive difference. Will watch panorama 2nite on iplayer
  • @Hayleybowcock: Govt must do more to stop illegal eWaste exports
  • @Wonder_Woman16: Panorama was amazing very shocking!!! Can’t believe Croydon was mentioned.
  • Jackie: Good programme, I am sure most people will be shocked by this trade
  • Ralph: I have several items of electronic gear stored in the attic. What should I do with them?
  • Tom: I read about this in the Observer yesterday, and I have now also seen the Panorama programme. I live in Croydon so this report is of local relevance and I hope to take this to my local green party for further action.
  • Jeff: I would like to congratulate you on the recent investigation into the illegal export of e-waste.
  • Simon: Good work, EIA.

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We asked Simon Clinton, the driving force behind the Save Wild Tigers gala held back in March of this year, what makes him so passionate about saving the wild tiger and find out just how ambitious his plans are.
View of a tiger in the wild, India. Copyright Robin Hamilton,

View of a tiger in the wild, India. Image courtesy of Robin Hamilton. Watch the video

Watch the sensational tiger video The Clinton Partnership put together for the project.

“The inaugural Save Wild Tigers black tie dinner in March, at the Mandarin Oriental was without doubt a great success. Why? Firstly we all came together to fight the cause under a single umbrella, EIA, Born Free & WildAid. Secondly, we managed to galvanise support for our 6 month awareness programme – an art exhibition on tigers, a forum at the RGS and finally the gala dinner, which raised close to £100,000. A great achievement by all.
“Back in the 70`s as a kid being brought up in Malaysia I first became aware of Tigers, and indeed my Fathers support then for Tiger conservation work in Malaysia with the WWF. However only in recent years did I really understand how dire the situation was, frightening numbers – 3,200 left, $10,000 for a Tiger skin, 10 years to extinction, these numbers hit hard.
Save Wild Tigers - London 2011

Save Wild Tigers - London 2011

As a marketing guy, the power of this iconic symbol over the years for brands and indeed upon varying cultures is incalculable, think Tony the Tiger from Kellogg’s, think Esso/Exxon Mobile “a Tiger in the Tank”, think enjoying a Tiger beer on a relaxing beach in Malaysia, or a indeed a kids story around Tigers, it’s time we gave something back to them – before it’s too late.
For me, the journey actually begins now, for others like Debbie it began many years ago. Personally, I can’t think of many other causes that have had such a impact on our culture and lives for thousands of years, yet could all be over in 10 short years, indeed we are already 6 months into our 10 years, the clock really is ticking!
“Let’s really pick up the pace, there’s so much we can all do. If you need inspiration, watch the video on www.savewildtigers.org or the EIA site and help us before it’s too late.”
Simon Clinton (left) with Virginia McKenna and artist Gary Hodges

Simon Clinton (left) with Virginia McKenna and artist Gary Hodges at the Tiger Gala

Simon Clinton
The Clinton Partnership

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