HIGUERO CAUGHT ON CAMERA ENDORSING WILDLIFE TRADE IN YOUNG ELEPHANTS
(Posted 01st October 2019)
New CITES Secretary General Yvonne Higuero must be cursing her bad luck being caught on camera making comments which expose her for shedding the impartiality her office requires and taking sides in a matter which the most recent CITES GOP18 comprehensively voted down.
Higuero, relatively new in her position as Secretary-General for the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), appears to have dropped established protocol of her office to endorse a controversial trade in the sale of live elephants from Africa. Her endorsement was seen as an attempt to influence decisions that, for the past year and half, had been debated in a Working Group of the CITES Animals Committee. The Working Group comprising of CITES Party delegates, members of zoo associations, legal advisors and NGOs had been attempting to control the largely unregulated trade in live elephants that has witnessed over 100 young elephants sent from Zimbabwe to Chinese and other zoos that could not suitably house and care for them.
Despite Higuero’s unprecedented endorsement, the issue was brought to a vote at the triennial CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP18) held in Geneva on the 27th of August. It was indeed a big day for elephants as Parties overwhelmingly voted to ban the trade of live elephants beyond their natural range (unless under exceptional circumstances and emergency situations). It was a resounding result – 76% voted in favour to stop the trade leaving Higuero shame- and redfaced about her public position.
Earlier that week, in a press conference, journalist Adam Cruise, exposed an undisclosed meeting in June 2019 between Higuero and Zimbabwe National Parks Authorities. Higuero, who had taken part in a Wildlife Economy Summit at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe on 24th June 2019, had afterwards been invited to visit nearby Hwange National Park where a group of 30 or so captured juvenile elephants were awaiting transportation to China and Pakistan. During the exchange with Cruise, Higuero admitted to the clandestine visit then gave the nefarious trade her full stamp of approval.
Higuero challenged Cruise to provide firm evidence to the contrary adding that if such evidence were brought before the CITES Secretariat, they “would do something about it”.
When Cruise offered to provide all the evidence at hand, Higuero immediately retracted her previous undertaking, stating now that the management authority of the country in question (Zimbabwe) had to be consulted before any further involvement from her office. It seemed then that Higuero, realising she had been backed into a corner, was attempting to evade the issue altogether.
Calls are now growing for Higuero to resign from her office for her blatant disregard of protocol and for taking sides in a matter which ultimately was voted down by more than three quarters of the states present at GOP18 in Geneva a few weeks ago, saying her position has become untenable and there is no more trust in her executing her sworn duties with the impartiality this requires.