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Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement
Trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn

BENDING, Ms Zara, Board Director and Chair, Roots & Shoots Australia Committee, Jane Goodall Institute Australia

FAVA, Mr Gabriel, Associate Director, Asia and Oceania, Born Free Foundation


CHAIR: Welcome. Thank you for talking to us today. The committee has received your submission, Mr Fava, as submission No. 62 and your submission, Ms Bending, as No. 38. Do you wish to make any amendments to your submissions?

Mr Fava : No, thank you.

CHAIR: We had one rare change made by someone today. I think that's the first time I've asked that question where someone's actually answered in the affirmative. I'd like to invite you to make a brief opening statement before we go to questions.

Mr Fava : First of all, my sincere thanks for the opportunity to be here today. Born Free very much welcomes extending its engagement on this issue here and in the future as appropriate. As with the vast majority of submissions, our call to the committee is for it to recommend that Australia join with other countries in helping to mount a full global response to poaching and trafficking in elephant ivory and rhino horn. The introduction of a domestic ban in order to facilitate law enforcement and reduce demand and, ultimately, poaching would go a long way towards achieving this objective.

In addition, we recognise that closing Australia's legal markets won't stop poaching on its own. Wildlife crime, which sustains itself from domestic trade, must also be shut down. Once again, a comprehensive and proportionate response is required through the whole length of the criminal justice chain, from frontline to courtroom: scaled-up training of customs officers for improved detection at borders; improved capacity and capability for enforcement agencies to conduct and coordinate effective counter-trafficking investigations and operations; sensitisation of prosecutors and the judiciary to the serious nature of wildlife trafficking; and provision of sentencing guidelines which promote a truly effective deterrent.

Many of the submissions, including our own, have highlighted calls and measures by coalitions, conventions, initiatives and intergovernmental organisations. Besides being united in their unequivocal message regarding the closure of domestic markets, they all have one other critical aspect in common which must not be overlooked: they are all led and/or supported overwhelmingly by range countries for elephants and, to some extent, for rhino. This includes, to a lesser degree but not as crucially, Asian countries. We often forget that the Asian region is not just a source of demand but also a source of wildlife and demand, and that their ecosystems, communities, economies and ranges also suffer the consequences of illegal and legal markets.

The global community, including Australia, should take heed of this voice. This isn't the UK or the US or the EU determining what these countries and their wildlife need but range countries themselves calling for support from the global community to help them shape a future of their choosing. The inquiry is in an advanced stage of gaining possession of all the facts and opinions it needs in order to draw pertinent conclusions and make the appropriate recommendations. This closely mirrors the consultation process undergone by many countries on this issue.

Finally, criminality will always seek the path of least resistance. In banning this domestic trade, Australia would make the world a more hostile environment for traffickers and a safer one for elephants, rhinos and people. Time being critical, we look forward to the conclusion of the inquiry and its recommendations. I have some information which I could potentially show you in camera but it depends if your questions relate to it or not. We might not need to; I just wanted to flag that.

CHAIR: Do you have anything further to add, Ms Bending?

Ms Bending : Yes. Good morning, Chair, members of the committee and all who are present today. I appear in my capacity as board director of the Jane Goodall Institute Australia to provide a submission. Today I am joined by three of our Roots & Shoots Australia National Youth leaders, sitting behind me, currently representing the great state of New South Wales: Shannon Samuel, Mary Pilkinton and Maya Yaffe. The Jane Goodall Institute Australia maintains its position in favour of an Australian domestic trade ban on elephant ivory and rhino horn. This position was first articulated by signage of the 2016 For the Love of Wildlife communique. Through our youth focus program and youth-led program, Roots & Shoots, JGIA supports a national youth leadership council, which is comprised of a remarkable and diverse group of young Australians passionate about making the world a better place for animals, people and the environment.

The 2018 council, together with their coordinators and alumni, Asitha Samarawickrama and Jessica Pinder, offer the following statement in support of JGIA's position: 'Like Dr Jane Goodall, many young people around the world are drawn to Africa for its people, culture and natural beauty. When we think of Africa, we think of elephants and rhinos. It is difficult to imagine an Africa without either of these iconic species, yet our inaction today will lead to this becoming reality within the next 20 years. It is confronting to foresee a future where our children will see elephants and rhinos and books and videos the same way that we now know species like the Tasmanian tiger and the passenger pigeon. Banning the domestic trade of elephant ivory and rhino horn in Australia will be a significant step in securing a prosperous future for these species. Dr Goodall says that we have not inherited this planet from our parents; we have borrowed it from our children. We have not borrowed our children's future; we have stolen it and we are still stealing it now. It is time that we get together, whatever our religion, whatever our culture, and start changing the way and changing our attitudes so that we can leave a better world for our children, whom we love. We call upon the Australian government to follow this message and do its part towards a future where wildlife and the communities with whom they coexist can thrive in peace and security. We ask all members of parliament, as our elected representatives, to exercise their powers for generations present and future. Our wildlife is worth more alive. Elephant ivory belongs on an elephant and rhino horn belongs on rhinos. We thank the committee for its consideration and invitation today.'

CHAIR: Thank you. Mr Fava, I'll start with you. Are you aware of any evidence of any organised crime in the sale, importation or exportation of ivory products within Australia?

Mr Fava : There are always signs of seizures. Large seizures are always a good indication. It's through that 500 kilograms, or 800 kilograms sometimes, allocated to deciding whether organised criminality is involved. In essence, there are a lot of indicators of criminal involvement when something is organised or something involves more than one party engaging in an activity. The other thing to bear in mind, also, is that seizures as such are simply one indicator within wildlife trade. It's often regarded as 10 per cent of the actual trade happening at any point in time. So, yes, they are indicators but they're not showing the complete picture—we're obviously not impounding all the trade which is happening. By its very nature, because of its illegality, we're not necessarily going to know what's happening. While monitoring isn't very effective or very comprehensive, it does raise the spectre of mitigating risk and taking measures to mitigate risk before something does become much more apparent.

CHAIR: The only major seizure we've had in Australia is one recently in Perth but that was a transshipment rather than destined for Australia. Is that how you understand it?

Mr Fava : That's correct—from Malawi to Malaysia, as has been noted previously. In and of itself that's still a concern, especially, as has also been noted, as other markets close up, demand reduction efforts take effect and domestic bans come into place. There is a misperception sometimes about trafficking networks. You don't have a case of supply and demand being divorced from each other and separated. This isn't traders taking advantage of the fact that there's demand in place. There is a very close relationship between the two. A colleague of mine working on law enforcement in Central and West Africa always says, 'Traffickers have one foot in demand country and one foot in supply country.' That's how they operate, and that's what a lot of the intelligence emerging from law enforcement operations and investigations reveals as well. It's more like branch offices spread around in different countries which sources will supply. It's very important that we stress the degree to which foresight is being played and the degree to which advantage is taken of weak legislation, a lack of legislation or a lack of compliance and loopholes in existing legislation. These are the chinks in the armour that traffickers will exploit.

CHAIR: So you're recommending that Australia adopt laws recently implemented in the UK?

Mr Fava : Yes. The UK bill has made a few exceptions. We advised them during the consultation period to have less exceptions than were adopted in the end. It is certainly one of the strongest pieces of legislation out there, as proposed. Taiwan has also recently proposed the closure of its domestic market, and that appears to be a complete ban. So that would in effect be probably the strongest one, but I'm also aware of other jurisdictions like the state of California in the US, which has a very strict piece of legislation as well.

Senator SINGH: When you say 'strict', do you mean there are very few exemptions?

Mr Fava : It is very tight indeed.

Senator SINGH: So museums and scientific? I'm just checking.

Mr Fava : Yes. We would normally look to, for example, three main ones: musical instruments which are in use and can be exchanged, traded or moved from country to country; de minimis exemptions, so a minimum weight of ivory but also a minimum proportion in conjunction, with both measures taken together; and museums—trade between accredited museums. The process by which you accredit museums is important as well.

CHAIR: The changes in the UK were all internal changes. As far as the borders are concerned, are those regulations still virtually identical to what we have here in Australia?

Mr Fava : Yes, that is my understanding—apart from the strictly domestic measures, obviously, which Mr Murphy has pointed out before. Both countries are signatories to CITES.

Mr WOOD: Sorry, can I just interrupt there. I thought they had in place a complete ban at the borders.

Mr Fava : The UK does, yes.

Mr WOOD: That's what I'm saying. There's a ban at the border, so nothing can come in.

Mr Fava : That's correct, yes.

Mr WOOD: But what they're now looking at doing is taking it further to a domestic ban?

Mr Fava : That's right.

CHAIR: So if we're looking at the difference between UK law and Australian law, if I can clarify—and you may be able to help us here or not—currently you can import or export a piece of carved ivory to or from Australia if you have the required certificate.

Mr Fava : Yes.

CHAIR: But you can't do that in the UK even if you have the required certificate?

Mr Fava : Unless it's fulfilling some of the exemptions, such as scientific use.

CHAIR: I understand those exemptions in the UK include items produced before 1947.

Mr Fava : I believe so, yes.

CHAIR: And the exemption for importation to Australia is before 1975?

Mr Fava : That is also my understanding, yes.

CHAIR: So there's a difference. Do you know why there was that difference in the year?

Mr Fava : I believe the 1975 date is when CITES came into effect. That is very often taken as the cut-off date. For the 1947 dates, you're probably more familiar with it.

Ms Bending : That would be in relation to the domestic ban, as I recall.

Senator SINGH: We can ask them. They're appearing.

CHAIR: Obviously the concern is that, if you do put that ban in place without attacking the demand side, you are likely to drive some of this trade underground and create more of a criminal element involved. What's your response to that?

Mr Fava : First, as has been noted previously, there is already criminal activity. It is already in effect on the ground. The fact is that domestic markets stimulate demand. They propagate demand. They sustain it quite actively. That's what needs to be addressed.

CHAIR: But isn't there the opposite potential? I'm just playing devil's advocate for you here. By putting the ban on, you're making the items rarer and therefore more expensive, and therefore there is greater incentive for criminal elements to get involved.

Mr Fava : It doesn't appear to be the case if you pass legislation, if you apply strict enforcement to the legislation to make sure that it is in effect and if you apply deterrent penalties so that there is a very loud and clear message to traffickers as well as to consumers. If a complete suite of packages is in place then there is no reason why it's an activity which can't be taken control of very successfully and significantly. That has been shown to be the case in certain countries as well.

Senator SINGH: Mr Fava, the Born Free Foundation have a focus on the survival of threatened species. Some of the figures which you refer to in the background of your submission talk about how five million elephants existed a century ago and today there are fewer than half a million, and then upwards of 20,000 elephants are being killed each year across the continent. So, on those current figures of elephant deaths—and acknowledging that it's part of an organised crime network—where are we headed for the ongoing survival of elephants as a species?

Mr Fava : I would say that with the current trend, if not addressed—and noting that there has been a slow decline over the last five years but also that 2016 was a record high for illegally traded ivory—what we are likely to see happen is that countries which have very small populations of elephants and therefore are very vulnerable, their elephants will disappear; they will lose their elephants. So the range restriction will happen. But, having said that, I think countries which traditionally have been very successful in growing their elephant population, particularly in Southern Africa, are also seeing significant signs of poaching. So it does present the spectre of range-wide decreases. By way of example, Tanzania, which I believe had the second-largest population of elephants, went from 100,000 elephants to 40,000 elephants in a period of five years. So that's 1,000 elephants a month for 60 months. That's very significant and that's how quick this can turn around, which brings into stark focus the reason why all countries and any country that can do something about it should do something about it.

The significance of Australia can be debated but the measures that have been adopted on the international global stage have acknowledged that they're not asking for countries of significance. They're not asking for the largest countries to close their domestic markets. They're asking for all countries to enact those measures. So it's an urgent situation and it's a very real situation, and, as a global community, it's very important that we do what we can.

Senator SINGH: Those figures are devastating. Equally, I have to address rhinos. The situation for the rhinoceros looks even worse in the sense of numbers, with fewer than 29,000 rhinos remaining worldwide. Again, I think you say between 2008 and 2017 more than 7,000 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa alone. Are they equally threatened or more threatened than elephants in becoming extinct in the future?

Mr Fava : I don't believe that was my submission, but I obviously acknowledge those figures. Yes, it certainly is.

Senator SINGH: It's in your submission.

Ms Bending : It's correct—over 7,000.

Mr Fava : There are rhino species in Asia which are very vulnerable; they are very small populations. The very sudden rise in poaching which occurred exponentially from around 2007 was quite shocking and can potentially continue at that rate. It does appear to have slowed somewhat, but it is still very high.

It's also very important to address the issue of poacher versus trafficker. Going after poachers is one method to maintain the integrity of a population on site, but traffickers are really driving the trade. The trade is really being driven by the traffickers. That's what needs to happen with intelligence-led enforcement in terms of judiciary and prosecutor awareness. That's where it really needs to make a difference, and it can make a difference. That's what needs to turn around, and that's the trend that we're trying to promote as much as we can.

Ms Bending : Just to add to Mr Fava's emphasis on 2007 as a particular landmark year, in South Africa in 2007 we had 13 rhino poached. This then increased to 1,215 in 2014 at its peak. This happened very, very quickly, and TRAFFIC attributes this to the resurgence of Vietnam as a major actor in that network. As for the reality for rhinos, that 7,000 figure is correct.

Just to bring us to currency as well, in terms of the lengths that poachers will go to, there was a very sad story a couple of nights ago from Kragga Kamma Game Park in South Africa. A 20-year-old rhino called Bella was poached for one centimetre of horn; she had been dehorned last week. That was 300 grams of horn, as verified by Dr William Fowlds, who did the autopsy. This left her 16-month-old calf, called Tank, searching for his mother and trying to seek solace with another mother and calf. This is one story of many.

JGIA certainly encourage the inquiry to talk to people on the ground, as I know that you are doing. One of our colleagues, Dr Johan Marais, leads a group called Saving the Survivors, who are vets that are very much on the frontline having to deal with facial reconstruction. There's some groundbreaking work being done there, and they see the true cost, both in terms of animals and people.

Senator SINGH: Thank you for sharing that. Getting back to the issue of potential extinctions, we have actually had this year the extinction of the northern white rhino.

Ms Bending : That's actually incorrect, sorry. It was the last male of that species, Sudan.

Senator SINGH: Sorry, the last male northern white rhino, you're right.

Ms Bending : We still have two. They're both females.

Senator SINGH: These figures that you refer to are within this decade. When we talk about numbers in Australia, there's been some discussion this morning about how big the market is in Australia and what we are talking about within Australia. Is it right to say that it's about Australia being part of a collective of countries implementing laws that are kind of in unison with other countries to have this kind of global movement to end this trade, rather than looking specifically within our own country as to the size of the turnover of it?

Mr Fava : Yes, I would go along with that. I think it's important to note. Any domestic ban should be used, I think, internationally. It should be seen less as a domestic affair and more as a global affair, if you like. The UK, for example, has certainly used the leverage of its own commitments to try and continue to try to encourage closure in other significant markets as well. We have, for example, the issue of displacement of markets. As the Chinese legislation came into place, we're seeing displacement—we're seeing traders move to neighbouring countries like Laos. We know that, for example, Vietnam has a very unregulated and large illegal trade in ivory. That displacement is very much of concern, and this is very much a global initiative which needs to be rolled out across the world.

I would also note in that context the upcoming Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London in October this year. Again, it's an opportunity, with senior politicians and heads of state in attendance, to leverage the value of these domestic bans, including Australia's if Australia decided to go down that road to stand with its traditional allies, like the US and the UK, and also to show solidarity with its regional counterparts, like China and Taiwan. It should be used that way. The most effective means to ultimately address poaching is for it to be a truly global ban.

Ms Bending : I believe Australia made a great statement of intention when it ratified CITES in 1976, and now is the time for action. We are part of that collective of 183 parties to CITES that is committed to global action—again, remembering that the overarching purpose of CITES is to ensure that the exportation of a species does not threaten its survival. This instrument came about in the 1970s. We were very much balancing trade interests and environmental protection, so it was very much a sustainable use instrument before its time. The rates of current exportation of both of these species cannot be deemed to be sustainable under any definition. As documented in the ivory context by CITES Congress of Parties 17 document 57.2, 'Closure of domestic markets for elephant ivory', CITES made a very clear statement:

Any sales of ivory, including within legal domestic markets, is inherently likely to increase the risk to elephant populations and local communities, since domestic ivory markets, whether in range, transit, or consumer countries, create a significant opportunity for the laundering of illegal ivory under the guise of legality.

That's about the issue of legal markets being used, potentially, as conduits.

Likewise, Australia has been present for the passing of all of the General Assembly of the United Nations resolutions tackling the illicit trafficking of wildlife, and was involved in the drafting of one of those instruments as well. So we've had experience in the field, and we should continue that spirit of collaboration and coordinate efforts to stem the tide of extinction worldwide.

Senator SINGH: If we were to ban ivory and rhino horn domestically, what would be the financial impact within Australia for antique dealers, auction houses and what have you? The UK has much larger exports of antique ivory than Australia, but, even in the UK, the ivory lots have only formed a very small percentage of sales. Would there be any financial impact on those businesses in Australia?

Mr Fava : From the submissions that have been made to this inquiry, from anecdotal information and from conversations that I personally have had, I would say that it appears that the auction house industry will not face any financial impact, and, in terms of the antique trade, my impression is that it's going to be very minimal—certainly, nothing in comparison to the financial burden and resource burden on the government were it to either not do anything or allow exemptions for antique or auction house trade.

Ms Bending : We're encouraged by the statement from Leonard Joel that there is 'no ethical or commercial reason' for the trade to continue, but we'll leave that for their evidence this afternoon.

Mr WOOD: Does CITES issue a number permits each year for so-called legitimate hunters to go and shoot an old rhino or elephant?

Mr Fava : CITES doesn't, but the countries which allow such practices may do so, yes.

Mr WOOD: But I was told there was a figure of 500 each year approved by CITES. So that's incorrect?

Mr Fava : No, you're referring to the quota system, I believe, which some countries have.

Mr WOOD: I'm trying to learn from you.

Mr Fava : Sure. I'm still learning.

Mr WOOD: And the reason I say that is to put the message out there that this has nothing to do with hunting; this is to do with poaching. I was involved in the ban on lions' importation to Australia, and obviously the hunters got very upset about that. But, while I find it abhorrent, if someone wants to go over and shoot a rhino or an elephant, they can still do that. Is that correct?

Mr Fava : As long as it's allowed within that country and they issue the necessary certificates, it is. We have the case of pseudo-hunting, which was very prominent in the news a few years back, where that was being used as a loophole in trophy hunting regulations. I believe a Vietnamese trafficker was hiring prostitutes from brothels in Johannesburg to go with him into the field to act as the person who, on paper, was the shooter. Then those horns would be exported as a trophy of the hunt, but obviously they were ending up in trade, and it was a huge business and went on for a long time.

Mr WOOD: With the figures, we hear about elephants and rhinos. There are different species of elephants, and we've heard about the white rhino before. How many elephants actually are alive overall? Is that a figure you would have or not?

Mr Fava : How many elephants—the population globally?

Mr WOOD: Yes.

Mr Fava : For African elephants—that's forest and savanna elephants—it's under half a million. The great consensus that took place recently was not for all the countries, but the figure extrapolated would place it at around that number. For Asian elephants, the number is harder to come by, but it's believed to be in the region of 30,000 or less. It's only males—some males, I should say—that carry tusks in that species, but obviously the impacts are quite profound when they when they're hunted for tusks.

Mr WOOD: What about rhinos?

Ms Bending : I can pull the most recent data I published earlier in the year in a journal. African species are greater in frequency than their Asian counterparts such as the greater one-horned rhino in India. The populations of the Javan rhinoceros and the Sumatran rhino are already so low due to poaching and other factors that at this stage it's more of a risk in terms of habitat degradation and genetic bottlenecks. So the toll of poaching has been seen in Asia, and we're seeing populations in the two figures for those.

Mr WOOD: When it comes to rhinos, is there a collective figure overall? Within that collective figure, are there some, as with African rhinos and those in other countries, which are greatly endangered and which have been poached? I'm just trying to determine how many rhinos we've got left, broken down into various species, and how many out of those are endangered.

Ms Bending : I can provide those figures to you in detail on notice. I can say that we have five species of rhino on earth currently. Three of those are critically endangered. I'm just trying to think off the top of my head. There are the Javan and Sumatran rhinos.

Senator SINGH: We don't have any male northern white rhinos left.

Mr WOOD: That's true.

Ms Bending : There are no male northern white rhinos, with Sudan dead. We do miss him.

Mr WOOD: I might ask Mr Fava a quick question. We heard from the department before that, when it comes to the criminal networks, Australia plays a very small role, and the seizures have been more for trinkets and not for obviously criminal networks. But how does that play into the bigger picture? I assume every item seized has most likely come from an animal which has been poached. So how do we know how many of those there are? I know you can't give a figure, but, percentage wise, how much are the populations decreasing from poaching? Therefore, do those little trinkets that are coming to Australia and other smaller nations make a difference in the grand scheme when the department's saying we're only a little player? What are your comments on that?

Mr Fava : The situation is much like the UK, where you have the vast majority of trade happening with these trinkets, and those trinkets are more commonly associated with modern ivory, so with poached elephants—definitely illegally killed. To try to ascribe value to it or link the proportion of that to a number of elephants killed is very hard to do. Obviously you have an average of five kilos for one tusk.

Mr WOOD: How much was that?

Mr Fava : Five kilos per tusk, which is again a very rough proxy for accurate weights or averages. We know that the larger tusked elephants are being killed much more, because obviously when you kill one you get more ivory out of them. We're seeing it over a very long stretch of time, but there definitely seems to be a trend of smaller and smaller tusks being found in seizures, because there are just not enough bigger ones left. In terms of numbers, that obviously plays into it as well.

Mr WOOD: We had evidence before from a lady from IFAW—I think it was Grace—in the US, saying the auction prices in the Chinese market in 2011 were $117,000 but that the market is dropping in value. But your evidence today about a rhino which was killed two weeks ago is that the poachers were going after one centimetre of its horn. On the one hand we're hearing it's really reducing and, on the other hand, you've got the poachers going for a centimetre of rhino horn.

Mr Fava : I would say that, first of all, a lot of these measures focus on elephant ivory rather than on rhino horn. It's a shame, because it would be very advantageous if the two were taken in hand and activities were done which addressed both trades and both poaching situations. The price of ivory does appear to be coming down. We've always seen this with rhino. I think rhino reached a point where it was more valuable than gold. I'm not sure of the price of it today.

Ms Bending : And platinum.

Mr Fava : Yes. For a while dehorning rhinos was seen as a conservation measure, which would be effective. There are obvious risks associated with knocking down rhinos, especially if you have to do it regularly. There are obviously ethical concerns with it as well. We were seeing a lot of examples of that, so it's not a new thing; it has been happening for a while. The small dehorned remains would still warrant killing. It is sometimes being done in revenge against the managers of the rhino populations themselves—against the rangers. They wouldn't even take the sliver of horn; they would just shoot the animal.

Mr WOOD: Ms Bending, how did you go?

Ms Bending : I did well. The Sumatran, Javan and black rhinos are critically endangered. Our Indian or greater one-horned rhinos are vulnerable, and our white rhinos are new-threatened in terms of stats. I can provide population breakdowns down to subspecies, if you wish, on notice.

Mr WOOD: If you could.

Ms Bending : Absolutely.

CHAIR: Is there a difference in trade between rhino horn and ivory?

Ms Bending : The UNODC was very, very clear in its groundbreaking report, which is that you don't view the wildlife trade market as one big market. You have to understand the nuances, the market demand, the networks and the actors involved in each commodity in its own right. So, even with things, for example, like global valuations of the trade, I tend stay clear of it. Similarly, in terms of the values of individual items from grams to kilos, prices are subject to volatility. The UNODC report explains the factors that may be bearing on how these valuations get so out of whack. We see that narrative of greed and grievance in some areas in relation to conflict play out in both, but there are nuances to each respective market.

Mr Fava : There will be crossovers between users of different commodities, especially when they're being used to express wealth and status or as an investment, banking against extinction or banking against increased rarity.

CHAIR: So the same object carved from a rhino horn or from an elephant tusk would have different values?

Ms Bending : Yes. In actual fact, even within the same horn the darker core of a horn is eminently more valuable than the lighter shade of horn that surrounds it, because it's older and in some cultures it is seen to have a more condensed quality to it for the purpose of traditional medicines. So, even within the same physical object, you'll see degrees of valuation. Dr Johan Marais made this observation on a recent visit to Sydney. He was also commenting on variations in quality, in the same way that you have clarity and cut in diamonds in terms of size and form. He also mentioned that there's now a new trend with some elite buyers in China now fashioning ivory into wedding bands. So there's always going to be a new use and a new application for these items.

CHAIR: For southern Africa, you mentioned a figure of something like 500,000 elephants as the current herd size.

Mr Fava : For Africa, for the whole continent, yes.

CHAIR: What country has the largest population?

Mr Fava : I believe countries like South Africa, Namibia and Botswana are the main ones.

Ms Bending : Yes.

CHAIR: Do those countries have a segment of lawful trade in the horn?

Mr Fava : Yes. Do you mean domestic use?

CHAIR: Yes. I imagine that, if those countries have several hundred thousand elephants, they see that as a potential resource which obviously they have to use in a sustainable way, with elderly elephants. Does that type of trade exist?

Mr Fava : To be certain, I'd have to take it on advisement, but I know that there are certainly physical markets in a lot of countries in Africa which do provide ivory for sale. Increasingly, what we started seeing five or 10 years ago was an increasing number of, say, busloads of Chinese nationals turning up to the markets and large numbers of purchases being made. You have to wonder how they get that back to their country, obviously, but that was certainly a trend that we started to see. So that then started to encourage domestic markets within Africa itself—never mind the trafficking of the products to the consumer countries.

CHAIR: But the recent law changes in China have potentially made all that trade illegal.

Mr Fava : Indeed.

CHAIR: Previously there was a legal segment of it.

Mr Fava : There was a bit of a similar situation, I guess. The entry into the country was illegal. You would find it, and it was known to be found in many retail outlets in the country, but enforcement was very weak. When I say 'weak', I mean there weren't necessarily many investigations and operations. There were also a lot of tip-offs. There was a lot of information being given in advance, so those products would be removed from sale. There was a similar situation with tiger skins.

Senator SINGH: I want to go to this issue of data. Mr Fava, in the Born Free Foundation's submission you talk about this discrepancy of data. According to the CITES website, the last year for which Australia has submitted data on its transactions of CITES listed species was 2014, so it sounds like we're fairly overdue in our trade reporting. I note that the Department of the Environment and Energy's CITES register does not list trade data about quantity of imported and exported ivory and rhino horn products that are given CITES permits, for example, by the department. Why do you think it is that we have this issue in Australia with lack of data?

Mr Fava : I guess there are two issues there. One is the supply of the data to the CITES Secretariat, which then uses its relationship with UNEP to upload that data and make it available for the public to access. One consideration there is that CITES parties have until October of the following year to submit the data for the previous year. So, for the data for 2018, the deadline for that to be submitted will be October 2019. That's quite a significant delay, and that's one of the issues which I believe need to be tackled within CITES, because it is an ongoing issue. If it's supposed to be a reactive framework based on decisions that we can only make from data, that's obviously a bit of a delay. I think that a lot of parties perhaps may not be submitting data on time because they have to sometimes compile data from different jurisdictions, different internal jurisdictions and different states, and there may be some difficulties there. My understanding is that Australia has submitted some of the late information to secretariat. I can't confirm that, but I have heard that.

Senator SINGH: Since 2014?

Mr Fava : Since 2014, and it simply hasn't been put on record yet. There's obviously that administrative delay as well, but I'm not sure. Mr Murphy would have to confirm that.

Senator SINGH: I guess that data only reveals how many CITES permits have been issued by the department. Is that right?

Mr Fava : Again, it depends on the jurisdiction. Some CITES management authorities will issue permits based on applications for permits.

Senator SINGH: This is in Australia?

Mr Fava : I'm not 100 per cent sure, but Australia may be one of these countries. There are indications that it is. They wouldn't necessarily keep a record; I believe one of the submissions actually does make reference to this. I'm not sure if it was Luke Bond's or another one. In effect, what that means is that you apply for a permit, but the country doesn't keep a record of when that permit is used. So when it submits its data to the CITES secretariat it will supply those figures—the figures for permits that it has issued, not the permits that have been used. Other countries may not do that. I don't know if it's the majority or the minority, but many countries simply record the permits that are used, which makes information comparison very problematic, obviously.

Senator SINGH: It seems that in Australia this is all happening through self-regulation and through our non-government organisations regulating. How effective do you think that is, currently? It's obviously only providing what those non-government organisations' resources are, what kind of work they can do and what good citizens can look for.

Mr Fava : I think civil society's role is very important; it's a key stakeholder in all of this and it needs to be allowed to function in a free and transparent way in any country. But it can't do the job of the government and it can't take the responsibility of the government. Similarly with law enforcement, it's the competence of enforcement agencies, the police and other agencies. That's the right space for it. I believe our role as an NGO community is to support and provide assistance that we can provide, but not to replace that role. That role must be taken up by government.

Ms Bending : Also, certainly, it comes down to funding. Just to make a point here, rightly or wrongly, environmental charities in Australia have been through a couple of years of evolution where we're being strongly encouraged to focus more on environmental remediation and, to some degree, less on advocacy. I'm not going to make allusions to that particular inquiry and laws. We've been given a strong message as to what our role is. To rely on NGOs to serve that function which ought to be done through those with capability, capacity, expertise and training—it's misplaced to think otherwise.

Mr Fava : There's certainly a role there. I know that a lot of NGOs, including our own, facilitate the kind of relationships and the kind of training and contacts with relevant organisations and agencies around the world. Obviously, through our relationships we become aware of agencies and even individuals who can best fit a role and are most fit for purpose for a given job. So that's a really key role which is very rewarding for us, because we can join the dots and we can provide those contacts, facilitate those connections and improve capacity. That's where the NGO sector's strength is.

Senator SINGH: It seems to me that the NGO sector's voice, both nationally and internationally, is heard a lot louder and stronger by the broader public—the Australian community—than government's voice in what its legal requirements are under CITES, for example. There was a recent Galaxy poll which basically highlighted that the majority of Australians think that this is illegal within Australia to trade in. Do you think that is because of that voice of civil society out there campaigning for these threatened species and/or the lack of education, monitoring and resourcing by government to actually do its job in what it should be doing?

Mr Fava : I'm not sure. Possibly.

Senator SINGH: There's a disconnect there.

Mr Fava : There's a very big disconnect there. I think that it relates at least in part to the fast pace at which some of these species are becoming threatened. We used to say that in our children's generation these species will disappear. Now it's becoming more of an issue for my generation. That's one issue. I guess there's always the issue of politics being somewhat distant from the people and not necessarily being receptive to the concerns of the vast majority of people.

Senator SINGH: We're trying to do something about that, aren't we, Craig?

CHAIR: Yes, very true.

Mr Fava : I think that there could be other factors involved. I think the government can be very effective in opening its ear when it wants to, and this inquiry is obviously evidence of that.

Ms Bending : I think we're encouraged at JGIA that the government has shown political will on this issue by virtue of holding this inquiry. There are a plethora of important issues that are befitting of this sort of treatment, and we're very grateful. As to the role of civil society and changing values, there are a number of very formidable young women behind me who have been inspired by an even more formidable woman in her 80s who still travels 300 days a year and refuses to slow down. All I can say is that a lot of what we do is connecting people with animals and our shared environment. This isn't exclusively a question of species extinction. We're also looking to the human impact. Dr Daft made submissions with respect to human conflict, but we also know that these iconic species of particularly charismatic megafauna serve a crucial ecosystem function. I think that, with that sort of messaging, the message is getting out there as to why we need to preserve these species not just for their sake but for our sake as well.

Senator SINGH: Thank you, and thank you to the participants behind you as well. I just need to correct you: this isn't a government inquiry. This is a parliamentary inquiry.

Ms Bending : Sorry—a slip of a the tongue.

CHAIR: Do you have any final wrap-up statements?

Ms Bending : In relation to the organised crime aspect of it, I would just like to refer to Ms Julie Ayling's article in the Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy published in 2013, entitled 'What sustains wildlife crime? Rhino horn trading and the resilience of criminal networks' as a particularly important piece. I hope this inquiry takes it into account. Ms Ayling talks about the sorts of environmental factors that make organised criminal networks feel safe to operate in a region. She mentions three key factors: firstly, a practical disconnect between the rules to restrict illegal trade and the implementation, where there is lax law enforcement or weak penalties; secondly, the existence of social norms that conflict with rules, as with the cultural use of wildlife in traditional medicines in China and Vietnam, for example; and, lastly, the existence of complex or ambiguous rules. Of those three, I think we can say at this stage we're probably two for three, so we certainly don't want to foster that type of environment where crime feels safe in Australia or even transiting through Australia.

Mr Fava : I have just a couple of small points. You were asking earlier about countries which had passed or were in the process of passing bans. The list I have here is the US, China, France, the UK, Hong Kong, the EU and Taiwan.

CHAIR: You're referring to internal trade bans?

Mr Fava : I am indeed.

CHAIR: With limited exceptions that vary between each nation?

Mr Fava : For most of them, yes. Taiwan appears, as I said earlier, not to be going down that road, but the others, I believe, all have some exemptions.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Fava and Ms Bending. We greatly appreciate your time and your submissions today.

Proceedings suspended from 12:35 to 13:03