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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Posts Tagged ‘rhino horn’

The War on Rhinos? It’s an Investment Bubble

Posted by Richard Conniff on August 26, 2016

Carved rhino horn offered at a 2011 Christie's auction in Hong Kong (Photo: Xinhua/Song Zhenping)

Carved rhino horn offered at a 2011 Christie’s auction in Hong Kong (Photo: Xinhua/Song Zhenping)

by Richard Conniff/

Since the start of the current war on rhinos, in 2006, journalists and wildlife trafficking experts alike have treated the trade as a product of Asia’s new-found wealth combined with old-style traditional medicine: Rich buyers pay astounding sums for rhino horn in the belief that it will cure cancer or a host of other ills.

This reporting often comes with an undertone of bafflement or even thinly veiled condescension. Buyers, mainly in China and Vietnam, appear to be so naive that they ignore the total absence of scientific support for the medicinal value of rhino horn and put their faith instead in a substance that is the biochemical equivalent of a fingernail.

But a new paper in the journal Biological Conservation raises a startling alternative theory. Rhinos are dying by the hundreds for what may be in essence

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Business Behaviors, Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

China (!) Leads Crackdown on Wildlife Trafficking

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 11, 2014

This report comes from CNN.  To put it in perspective, the announcement is undoubtedly timed to this morning’s opening of the Wildlife Trafficking Symposium in London.  (More on that below.)  Even so, it’s gratifying to see China take the lead against an illegal wildlife trafficking epidemic it has, up to now, largely tolerated and paid for:

A wildlife operation involving dozens of countries and organizations, seized more than three tons of ivory and a bevy of rare wildlife products as well as rare wood.

Operatives found rare animals — both living and dead — during the international, month-long operation.

The China-led transnational effort, codenamed Cobra II, aimed to crack down on illegal wildlife trade. Authorities recovered over 10,000 live European eels and pig-nosed turtles, as well as over 2,000 live snakes, according to Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency.

They also seized three tons of ivory, 36 rhino horns, and over 1,000 hides and skins from tigers, leopards and snakes as well as several hundred kilograms of pangolin scales from wildlife traffickers.

The operation included 27 other countries Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Why A Legal Rhino Horn Trade Won’t Help

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 25, 2013

The killing of rhinos for their horns has become so widespread that some people are predicting rhinos will vanish from much of Africa in five years.  South Africa has already lost 700 rhinos this year, as of the end of September.  Game ranchers there, who have decades of experience breeding rhinos, have argued for a legalized trade in horn, as a way to end the illegal killing.

This analysis by the web site Annamiticus systematically kicks that idea in the ass.  It’s long and I don’t agree with all of it.  (For instance, it treats the idea that “commercial interests” are behind the idea as automatically a bad thing.  But commercial interests are also behind ecotourism and organic gardening.  Criminal interests, or poorly regulated commercial interests, on the other hand, are a serious issue.)

Still, it’s worth a look for anyone cares about the future of wildlife:

Do the arguments in favor of a legalized trade in rhino horn stand up to basic scrutiny?

Let’s take a look at the nine most common myths perpetuated by rhino horn trade advocates.

Myth #1. “A legal trade in rhino horn is the ‘rhino poaching’ solution.”

In 1996, a total of six rhinos were killed illegally in South Africa, down from ten the prior year. At the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in 1997, South Africa sought to expand its Southern white rhino trade from “international trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations and hunting trophies” to include rhinoceros “parts and derivatives”.
However — even at a time when illegal killing numbers were declining (the total was four in 1997, then one in 1998 and 1999) respectively — the Parties determined that South Africa lacked “adequate control mechanisms” for a legal trade.

Today, evidence suggests that South Africa’s “control mechanisms” have declined even further. Since 2003, unscrupulous members of South Africa’s private rhino community have been implicated in rhino horn trafficking. Even more troubling, is that very few of these game farmers, professional hunters and safari operators have been convicted. Pseudo-hunts continued unabated with the apparent knowledge of provincial authorities, while hundreds of rhino horns and trophies were exported to Vietnam and Laos with the approval of South Africa’s CITES authorities. Following negative international publicity about the Vietnamese pseudo-hunts and Julian Rademeyer’s ground-breaking book Killing for Profit, South African trafficking networks apparently attempted to use connections in the Czech Republic.

Mary Rice, executive director of Environmental Investigation Agency’s London office, explains that “commercial interests” are behind South Africa’s pro-trade rhino policies.

Powerful commercial interests in South Africa are seeking to cash in on their stockpiled horn at the expense of the conservation and survival of South Africa’s rhinos. Legalizing rhino horn trade will reward the criminal kingpins behind the poaching, pushing rhinos inside and outside of South Africa Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environmental Issues | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Rhino Madness in Missouri

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 22, 2011

Black rhinos (by Dana Allen for Wilderness Safaris)

It’s World Rhino Day, one of those meaningless designations that clutter our calendars.  But in this case, we’re in the middle of a crazy new war on rhinos.  My report from South Africa doesn’t come out in Smithsonian Magazine for another month or so.  So in the meantime, here’s a report from the current Atlantic about how a price of more than $100,000 for the horns of a single rhino has brought the madness even to such unlikely destinations as Moberly, Mississippi.  The writer is Malcolm Gay:

BY THE TIME I pulled in at the Super 8 in Moberly, Missouri, the parking lot was thick with muddy trucks. In fact, the young clerk told me, the motel was full—she’d just rented her last room to a lady with a sloth.

“It’s the auction,” the girl said, pointing me in the direction of the closest available bed—some 35 miles south. “We’ve got people in from all over.”

Four times a year, in nearby Macon, Lolli Bros. Livestock Market holds one of the country’s biggest exotic-animal auctions and taxidermy sales. When I arrived last spring, preteen girls roamed the halls with marmosets on their shoulders. Amish families looked sternly on as men in camouflage jackets vied for zebras and Bactrian camels. Nearby, a blond woman in a sweatshirt bottle-nursed a baby orangutan wearing a diaper, while a white buffalo calf wandered past a stuffed polar bear.

But what turned out to be one of the auction’s most valuable objects was also one of its smallest, residing behind a glass case in the taxidermy room: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Conservation and Extinction | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »