The Washington Post - 22.08.2019

(Joyce) #1

THURSDAY, AUGUST 22 , 2019. THE WASHINGTON POST EZ RE A


BY KATIE METTLER

In the name of conservation,
South Africa is adopting a policy
that will allow trophy hunters to
kill more — not fewer — endan-
gered black rhinos, a move that
has wildlife advocates split as
poaching concerns endure.
At the Convention on Interna-
tional Trade in Endangered Spe-
cies in Geneva, delegates from
countries across the globe voted
this week in favor of South Afri-
ca’s hunting proposal, which in-
creases slightly the annual num-
ber of game hunting permits
available to the public and nar-
rowly defines which black rhinos
can be hunted: older, agitated,
non-breeding males.
There are about 5,000 black
rhinos on the planet, and nearly
2,000 of them live in South Africa
— a steady increase in a popula-
tion decimated by poaching over
a 20-year period. From 1970 to
1992, the population decreased


from 65,000 across the African
continent to 2,300, a drop of
96 percent, according to statistics
from the International Rhino
Foundation.
South Africa allows five black
rhinos a year to be killed by
trophy hunters. The new policy
would change the math from a
set quota to a fixed 0.5 percent of
the black rhino population,
which under today’s numbers
would equate to nine adult males.
Though confounding on the
surface, South Africa’s logic is
based on precedent.
An uptick in hunting permits
helped the white rhino, too, ac-
cording to a report by the wildlife
trade monitoring organization
TRAFFIC.
Aging male rhinos can be terri-
torial and will interfere with
mating female rhinos and young-
er males, hindering population
growth. South African officials
argued that by allowing game
hunters to target only that prob-
lematic group of old males, the
policy had the potential to not
only increase the chances for
healthy reproduction but also
boost discretionary revenue.
Permits for black rhino trophy-
hunting are pricey and nearly
always purchased by foreigners,

according to the policy language.
It projects that additional rev-
enue from the sale of more per-
mits would generate funds that
could be applied to anti-poaching
and other wildlife conservation
measures.
Gabon and Kenya, as well as
the Born Free Foundation —
which spoke on behalf of nine
other wildlife conservation or-
ganizations — opposed the meas-
ure, raising concerns over poach-

ing challenges.
But they were outnumbered by
the policy’s supporters, which
included Canada, the European
Union and six African nations
that surround South Africa.
“On the face of it, increasing
the trophy hunting quota at a
time when poaching of rhinos in
South Africa is rampant might
seem a rash move, and clearly
curtailing indiscriminate poach-
ing must remain a conservation

priority,” Richard Thomas, a
spokesman for TRAFFIC, said in
a statement to The Washington
Post. “However, there are sound
biological reasons why careful,
selective removal of older, post-
breeding males — a process that
can also raise conservation funds
through selling the trophy hunt-
ing rights — enables younger,
more vigorous bulls to come
through and boosts overall
breeding success and productivi-
ty of a population.”
Thomas cited the population
recovery of the white rhino as
proof that this strategy can work.
In its study on rhinos in 2011,
TRAFFIC noted that the intro-
duction of sport hunting in South
Africa coincided with a steady
rise in white rhinos. In 1968,
when game hunting was intro-
duced, there were 1,800 white
rhinos in the nation. By 2011, the
population had swelled to more
than 18,000, according to the
report.
“Rather than hindering popu-
lation growth, trophy hunting is
regarded as having positively in-
fluenced White Rhino numbers
and population performance in
many direct and indirect ways,”
the report said.
But skeptics of the policy ar-

gued at CITES that there is no
demonstrable need for more
hunting permits, because in past
years even the smaller five-rhino
quota has not been met.
And poaching remains a criti-
cal problem.
Susan Lieberman, vice presi-
dent for international policy for
the Wildlife Conservation Soci-
ety, said in a statement that her
organization “remains con-
cerned about the impact of illegal
hunting of black rhinos and traf-
ficking in their horns.”
Save the Rhino, an anti-poach-
ing conservation organization,
wrote in a post on its website that
the key part of South Africa’s
proposal “is not the hunting it-
self, but the calculations based on
population size.”
Poaching makes the black rhi-
no population inconsistent,
which can make the percentage
system tricky, the post said.
“To increase confidence, more
regular updates on populations
need to be reported, with provin-
cial breakdowns, more prompt-
ly,” Save the Rhino wrote in the
post. “Not only would this help to
determine the population, but
also benefit overall biological
management.”
katie.mettler@washpost.com

In disputed conservation move, South Africa expands black rhino hunt


WALDO SWIEGERS/BLOOMBERG NEWS
A black rhino, with horns preemptively removed to thwart
poachers, ambles across ranchland in South Africa in 2015.

Trophy count may grow,
but permits allow only
the killing of older males

BY LIZ SLY

beirut — Iranian-backed mili-
tias in Iraq warned Wednesday
that foreign aircraft flying over the
country may be treated as “hos-
tile” amid growing suspicions that
Israel is responsible for mysteri-
ous explosions at militia bases.
The warning came in a state-
ment issued by Abu Mahdi al-Mo-
handes, the deputy commander of
the powerful coalition of Shiite
Muslim militias known as Hashd
al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization
Forces (PMF), which includes
paramilitary groups that owe alle-
giance to Iran.
The statement blamed Israeli
drones for four big blasts at militia
bases over the past month, all of
them at warehouses storing am-
munition and weapons, and ac-
cused the U.S. military of aiding
the strikes by allowing Israel to


use U.S. bases in Iraq.
“We have informed the Joint
Operations Command that we will
regard any foreign aircraft flying
over our headquarters without the
knowledge of the Iraqi govern-
ment as hostile, and will deal with
it accordingly,” the statement said.
The U.S. military responded
by tweeting that it operates in Iraq
at the request of the Iraqi govern-
ment and complies with all Iraqi
laws and directions. The only pur-
pose for being in Iraq is “to enable
our Iraqi Security Force partners
in the mission of an enduring de-
feat of Daesh,” the military said,
using the Arabic acronym for the
Islamic State.
Israel has not confirmed or de-
nied responsibility for the attacks,
but during a visit to Ukraine this
week, Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu appeared to hint at
Israeli involvement, responding

to a reporter’s question about
whether it was behind the explo-
sions by saying that “Iran has no
immunity, anywhere.”
“We will act — and currently are
acting — against them wherever it
is necessary,” he said.
If confirmed, Israel’s involve-
ment would suggest it has opened
a new front in its ongoing fight to
prevent Iranian-backed militias in
the region from deploying sophis-
ticated weapons capable of target-
ing Israel. The explosions at the
militia bases in Iraq are reminis-
cent of those associated with
scores of airstrikes conducted by
Israel in Syria over the past five
years, which mostly targeted mis-
sile storage sites or suspected
transfers of weapons to the Leba-
nese Shiite Hezbollah movement.
Israeli airstrikes in Iraq could
complicate the U.S. effort to com-
bat a revived Islamic State insur-

gency there and risk drawing Iraq
into escalating hostilities between
the United States and Iran.
The militia statement was the
strongest indication to date that
Iraqis suspect Israel is behind the
explosions, including one Tuesday
at a militia base near an air base at
Balad, where U.S. forces maintain
a presence.
After the first alleged strike, on
July 19 at a Shiite base in the
northeastern town of Amerli, the
Iraqi army immediately said an
“unidentified drone” was respon-
sible. The PMF subsequently
claimed an accident had occurred,
while the government declined to
assign blame pending an investi-
gation.
Then came two more blasts at
weapons warehouses, one at
Camp Ashraf, a headquarters for
the powerful Badr Organization in
eastern Diyala province, and one

last week at Camp Saqr south of
Baghdad. The latter ignited a huge
blaze, sending rockets and bullets
exploding over densely populated
neighborhoods for up to five
hours.
Three days later, Iraqi Prime
Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi or-
dered that storage facilities for
weapons should be moved away
from residential areas and also
that all international flights over
Iraq should receive advance gov-
ernment approval, the first indica-
tion that the government suspect-
ed foreign involvement. The U.S.
military said it would comply with
all Iraqi government require-
ments and that the order would
not impact its ability to provide
support for missions against the
Islamic State.
One question is how Israel
would be able to attack targets so
far from its borders. Israel has not

struck Iraq since a 1981 mission to
bomb the Osirak nuclear reactor
constructed by former president
Saddam Hussein.
One possibility would be that
Israel was using its newest-model
drones. Another would be that the
strikes were carried out by recent-
ly acquired U.S.-made F-35 air-
craft, according to a report
Wednesday by the Middle East
Institute.
“Israeli intelligence has known
for more than a year that Iran had
begun deploying sophisticated
rocket and ballistic missile sys-
tems into Iraqi territory, some to
be based there permanently, oth-
ers to be dispatched by land to
Syria and Lebanon,” the report
added.
liz.sly@washpost.com

Mustafa Salim in Baghdad
contributed to this report.

After Iraq base blasts, militias’ threats to aircraft heighten speculation on Israel


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