Ms Brigitte Bardot
Fondation Brigitte Bardot
45 rue Vineuse
Gland, 26 March 2003
Dear Ms Bardot,
I am writing in response to your letter of 17 March 2003 addressed to our President regarding WWF-Canada's position on the seal hunt, as well as WWF’s position on African elephants and the ivory trade at the recent meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Harp Seal Hunt
WWF-Canada has chosen to work with rural, northern and coastal residents to support conservation initiatives that are led and cooperatively championed by them and WWF. Contrary to certain beliefs, Inuit livelihoods in the Eastern Arctic have been disastrously impacted by campaigns against the East Coast seal hunt. WWF-Canada maintains an office in Iqaluit, working closely with the Inuit, and has received appreciation from the government of Nunavut for WWF’s willingness to stand by them on the issue of harvesting seals, which are so central to their culture.
Harp seals are at record high numbers, in excess of 5 million and the proposed total annual allowable catch is not a “threat to their long term survival”. WWF has consulted population experts on this matter, and the science-based management system upon which the quotas is established has been peer-reviewed. I would like to underline here that WWF has a strong track record of being an independent, non-partisan organization that takes positions based on good science and ethical conservation principles, not on what governments request.
Contary to what you mention in your letter, WWF has never supported a culling of seals to re-build fishery stocks, because there is no compelling scientific evidence that such a strategy is justifiable.
African elephant populations & CITES
WWF has a significant long-term commitment to elephant conservation in both Africa and Asia, with active field elephant conservation programmes in numerous countries in both regions. In these conservation programmes, as well as in our participation at CITES, we are guided by a single objective: ensuring the long-term future of African and Asian elephants in the wild. WWF also believes that it is essential to ensure that potential conservation benefits to the elephant populations of proponent range States do not lead to negative impacts on elephant populations in other range States in Africa or Asia.
After careful evaluation, therefore, it was the position of WWF at the CITES meeting that consideration of resumption of legal international trade in ivory by CITES was premature for a number of reasons. We did not support the ivory trade aspects of any of the proposals submitted to the CITES meeting last year. However, we also recognize that these Southern African countries deserve support and credit for their success in conserving and managing their elephant populations.
WWF has active field programmes which contribute to elephant conservation in Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. We know first-hand that elephant conservation and management work requires large revenues. While different countries employ different models to secure sustainable funding sources for this work, including ecotourism, income from trade in elephant products can, and has, provided revenue for elephant conservation. In many countries, the large majority of elephants live outside of protected areas, and large and often growing populations can cause severe impacts on local people, typically the rural poor. Therefore, we believe that ensuring long-term effective conservation in much of the region requires working closely with local communities, and ensuring that they have incentives to maintain elephant populations, rather than destroying them or converting land to agriculture and other intensive uses. Community-based conservation programmes in Southern Africa highlight the successes that can be gained with such an approach, and revenues from trade in elephant products can play a role in providing these incentives. It is recognition of these realities that has led to our highly successful LIFE Programme in Namibia, as well as other community based conservation field programmes, of which we are proud. We are committed to the need to generate income for conservation, support for rural conservancies and local community development, and the need to develop an effective monitoring system.
I enclose for your information two papers on the position of WWF-Canada regarding the seal hunt, as well as WWF's position statement at the CITES meeting of November 2002, which I trust will clarify the situation. Other position papers and fact sheets on the African and Asian elephants can be found on www.panda.org/species.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any further assistance.
Dr Claude Martin