Dear Friends of Active for Animals,
As many of you know, I recently completed a successful week of meetings in Washington DC. And I am excited to let you know that we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to implement a solution that will protect 40,000 of the most endangered wild species around the world, and for years to come.
The Meetings in Washington DC!
It was an amazing four days (Oct 23-27) in DC. The weather was amazing. I have included a few photos that you can see here. It was exciting to finally meet my long-time wildlife conservationist partner, Dr. Lynn Johnson (Nature Needs More founder) who flew in from Melbourne, Australia for the week. A short 36-hour journey door-to-door!
From hundreds of emails, phone calls, and Fedexes we ended up with 13 meetings scheduled for the week. We met with congressional staff from both sides of the aisle and several agencies including Fish & Wildlife, US Trade, The World Bank, the Bureau of African Affairs and USAid. It was surprising to learn just how little many of the supposed experts knew about the legal wildlife trade. All they really knew about were the elephant and lion trophies that were coming into the US.
We spent a good deal of time explaining how the endangered species trade is regulated by CITES, in force since 1975. And that CITES uses a 1970s paper-based permit system that is out of date and unsuitable to facilitate a modern trade environment. This allows for the vast majority of illegally harvested wildlife to be laundered into legal markets with the help of fraudulent CITES permits (faked, reused, altered etc.). This is a $500B global, commercial trade, and that after seafood, fashion and furniture industries are the biggest profiteers. And businesses contribute nothing to stop this, they are free-riding while making mind boggling profits; and this needs to stop. You can learn more about the problem with CITES by clicking on Lynn Johnson’s MODERNIZING CITES document. You can also learn more about CITES by visiting here: What is CITES?
We (Active for Animals and Nature Needs More) have approached the US Federal Government to ask that US$12 million is donated to cover the cost of rolling out the ASYCUDA eCITES digital permit system to the 49 countries in continental Africa who still use CITES paper permits. We have focused initially on Africa because:
- 2015 research by the University of Cape Town into the accuracy of CITES export permits from 50 African nations (to 198 importing countries/territories) between 2003 and 2012 only 7.3% were free from discrepancies.
- The USA is a key trading partner for the countries of continental Africa. Of the CITES signatory countries based in continental Africa:
- 12 list the USA as their primary trading partner.
- 22 countries list the USA in their top 3 trading partners.
- We found thousands of CITES permits for trade from the countries of continental Africa to the USA labeled as: ‘unknown’, ‘unspecified’ or simply ‘specimens’.
Having a modern, digital online permitting system in place will provide immediate benefits in preventing the laundering of illegal wildlife ‘products’ into the legal wildlife trade. An audit trail will be created that provides traceability and transparency which will lead to cleaner supply chains and fewer illegal wildlife being exploited.
While everyone we met acknowledged that $12million in the context of Washington DC was pocket change, we know the lack of understanding of CITES and the trade means we have our work cutout for the next two years. Because no one we met understood much about trade, which meant no one knew which department should be leading and driving this modernization.
The next stage of the project will involve:
- Stakeholder awareness-raising, education and capacity building.
- Creating a network of advocates, including building relationships with members of The ICCF Group:
https://internationalconservation.org/ to support this program of work in the US, continental Africa and beyond.
- Uncovering funding opportunities to roll CITES electronic permitting out globally, currently only 19 of the 183 CITES signatory countries have modernized to digital permits.
I am already responding to requests for information on CITES, trade and the solutions needed from both sides of the aisle which means I have already started designing and sending the materials needed to move these key stakeholders through the awareness-raising stage. Education and capacity building will be needed very soon.
The goal is to have much of this done to secure USAid donations that are available before July 2025. Why July 2025? Because this will be the 50th Anniversary of CITES coming into force globally. All the political representatives acknowledged that this was a great milestone to work towards.
How You can Help
I will be working with congress people and senators (and their staff) in the lead up to March 2024 to fill out a Programmatic Appropriations Request asking for the US$12 million; ideally this has bipartisan support.
Developing the materials takes time every week and will mean time spent in Washington DC. In the first instance, I have a goal to raise $30,000 by Christmas 2023 to provide the funds to have the flexibility to give this project the best possible chance of success in 2024. Can you help??
Given the duration of the project to July 2025 and the lead up to the global CITES meeting in late 2025, this means working with people, from both sides of the aisle, during the 2024 election period, a time that will no doubt be difficult. But the importance of this is clear; in a recent press release President Biden said, “In so many ways, Africa is the future – and so when Africa succeeds, the whole world succeeds”.
If CITES continues to be a 1970s paper-based system Africa can’t succeed. Criminals will continue cheating the system to exploit the continent’s endangered wildlife, making the region even more unstable. The time to act is now – because biodiversity loss is everyone’s business.
Active for Animals’ TRANSPARENCY MATTERS project is critical. In the words of Kofi Annan “If corruption is a disease, transparency is a central part of its treatment.”
Building the necessary capacity in Washington DC will be needed over the next 2 years, and the total cost of this project will be $75,000 over this two-year timeframe. I have my work cut out to build the necessary awareness and educate our political representatives to ensure they have the necessary knowledge to become the network of advocates needed.
I understand the $30,000 by Christmas 2023 (and the total of $75,000 over the next two years) is a big ask but one thing is clear if we don’t continue pushing this nothing will change.
Please consider showing your support for Active for Animals. I will match each of your donated funds up to $20,000. Please help me meet that goal so we can make the most of this incredible opportunity. Giving is easy, simply click on the link below (although you will need to have a paypal account. Please contact me for alternative payment options). I will keep you posted on how we do! Thank you for joining us in our efforts to make these much needed changes for Africa’s endangered wildlife.