karl ammann
bushmeat activist, wildlife photographer, author;

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contact us:
email: photo inquiries
email: karl directly
in USA: 301-854-0388

present features:

As CITES annual conf.
nears Karl expounds on
CITES double standards.

Karl's exposition of the
real Ivory price
in China.

Christopher Hasslet's
incredible report on the
illicit online ape trade.

An open letter regarding
developments in Guinea

concerning the illegal
export of great apes.

karl's recent Report on
, its permitting
system, with clear
evidence of its
failure to police
the trade in live animals
of endangered species

karl discusses how
disappearing wildlife,
worldwild, reappears
in Chinese Zoo and
Safari Park facilities

karl interviewed by
Southeast Asia Globe
reveals his trade secrets;
staying out of trouble,
disillusion w/progress
on illicit animal trade

CITES 2011 Guinea
Mission Report

karl comments on
Apparent drop in
rhino horn demand

karl wins another
SAB environmental
media award

Commercial Exploitation
and Cites

karl ammannn

Overwhelmed U.S. port
inspectors unable to keep up
with illegal wildlife trade
Darryl Fears (in Wash Post)

African fraud, local market
exacerbate illegal primate

Global Times

Media Report (in Chinese)
Southern China Weekly

the Conakry Connection
very detailed report on
great ape smuggling in Guinea
provides insight into the
worldwide animal trade.
karl ammann and others

latest (9-14)Conakry
Connection update

karl ammann and others

latest (1-14)Conakry
Connection update

karl ammann and others

Cites and the Shanghai 8
exporting illegal wild apes
claiming them captive bred
karl ammann

Cites and the Taiping4
more on the export
of illegal wild apes
claimed as captive bred
karl ammann

Karl's blogs for
National Geographic
tiger Trade, china's chimp
smuggling, ivory tracking,
rhino poaching and more.

Tiger farming in
SE Asia

karl ammann

more on the China-
Gorilla story

karl ammann

Cites and the illegal
trade in wildlife

karl ammann

emails/letters/issues ignored
bonobos to Armenia

GRASP correspondence on
illegal animal trade

allegations of a coverup at the
CITES secretariat

karl ammann

a fairy tale of ivory:
the ongoing tragedy of
incompetence, slaughter,
and lawlessness.
karl ammann and others

for details see this
transcript with NBouke.
karl ammann and others

the Rhino & the Bling - the
inside mechanics of the
rhino horn trade.
karl ammann

karl's latest elephant
poaching video

Millions spent on ape
conservation and where
are the results?

karl ammann

an interview with Karl
on the state of conservation,
poaching, trafficking
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Where Did All
the Tigers Go?

karl ammann

the detailed report on
The Cairo Connection:
Ape Trafficking

karl ammann

the updated report on
The Cairo Connection:
Ape Trafficking in Egypt

karl ammann

Tiger, Lion bones
and rhino horn

another piece in Swara

karl ammann

Tiger cake & rhino horn
from Swara, a magazine of the
East African Wildlife Society

karl ammann

Into the Asian Underworld
in Africa Geograpic's
Rhino Watch
(page 3)
karl ammann

karl speaks at Foreign
Correspondents' Club of
Thailand - International
Trade in Reptile Skins

rhino versus ape

karl ammann

the rhino horn story
at consumer end
karl ammann

the latest horrors of
Poaching in
karl ammann

addendums to
elephants and elephant
conservation in the DRC

karl ammann

Our reptile skin trade
is now online.

Rhino Files: 333 rhinos
killed by poachers in
barbaric fashion

karl ammann
bernadette cook

Cites and the diplomatic
approach: these videos
say it does not work

karl ammann

Karl wins another
Genesis award

notes on Orang conservation
in Kalimantan - a sad story

errol pietersen

despite illegally held apes
CITES action minimal

karl ammann

asia geographic on
illegal wildlife trade

dale peterson
karl amman

africa geographic
reports on karl's
smuggling studies

karl ammann

Karl's German site

of interest

karl nominated for
zoological society medal

'Canned hunting': the
lions bred for slaughter

The Guardian

Seven rhinos killed ...
Kenya's bloodiest week

The Guardian

Forestry Education info
chase g

Not on Animal Planet
karl ammann

2010 Bili-Uere Update
karl ammann

more on wildlife
trafficking from Boten -
bears, leopard, tiger cubs

karl ammann

"horrific slaughter of
elephants ... butchered
in the Central African
Republic ... "

from BBC Newsnight

HIV ignored in Natl
Geographic article on
disease transmission

karl ammann

The Protein Gap
A misleading article

karl ammann

Mass Gorilla Execution
Can we learn from it?

karl ammann

Hundreds of Elephants
killed in DRC Park

from radio Okapi

Hunting Report take
on Chimp escape

karl ammann

US Wildlife Agency
provides a bandaid

karl ammann

open letter to CITES
re: wildlife export

karl ammann

important books

elephant reflections
dale peterson
karl ammann

eating apes
dale peterson
karl ammann

consuming nature
anthony rose
karl ammann

Conservation in Central Africa - Time For A More Business Like Approach?

... Or Conservation - the Ultimate Challenge to Big Business

I wonder what would happen if we got Ted Turner, Richard Leakey and maybe Richard Branson around a table with Bill Gates (who took his executives to see the gorillas at Kahuzi Biega and then returned to honeymoon in Mahale)? We could give them the status of conservation in Central Africa in general, and the bushmeat issue in particular, as a 'case study', and ask them to draw up a 'Business-Like Master Plan' to deal with it.

I would like to predict that the resulting document would describe a drastically different approach from current attempts to deal with what is now recognized as a major conservation crisis. Actually, that is what is needed?! A drastic new approach might very well represent the last chance for most of the primates and other wildlife of Central Africa.

To begin with, I should establish my credentials and qualifications for commenting on wildlife conservation and business practices in this part of the world. My educational background is in business. I have a degree in Economics from a Swiss University and one in Hotel Management from Cornell. I have lived in Africa for over 20 years. During this period, I have twice held Africa-wide positions for a large international hotel-management company.

Twelve years ago, I started seriously looking at wildlife photography as a new career option. Today, while still working as a consultant to the tourist industry, most of my time is spent on photography. Taking pictures, in turn, led me to conservation. For the last eight years, I have been sporadically researching the commercialization of the bushmeat trade, visiting various Central African countries on a regular basis.

Today I see the bushmeat crisis as more than just another story. I am convinced that what is happening on the bushmeat front is symptomatic of events and trends in the region in general. Bad governance clearely seems to go hand in hand with bad conservation. If we can use images of butchered gorillas and chimps to illustrate just how bad governance in some of these countries is and if this in turn results in the kind of outcry which might improve things on the conservation front - then I am convinced we have also improved the lot for the people. Wildlife conservation and people conservation could go hand in hand.

I have had the opportunity to discuss bushmeat-related topics with many conservation executives. Coming from a business background, what has surprised me more than anything else, is the lack of ways of measuring results on the conservation front; that no attempt is made to establish criteria against which performance can be assessed.

In my hotelier days, I was responsible for properties in several of the countries concerned. All general managers worked to specific targets and financial budgets. Independent quality assessors would go in unannounced, with long questionnaires to be filled in. Guests would be encouraged to send their comments to head office. If the management did not live up to expectations, their Africa tours were often short-lived. In countries where even good managers could not produce acceptable results, management agreements were terminated. This is the way business works worldwide.

Many conservation organizations with operations in the countries concerned have budgets similar to those of large hotels, but there seem to be no real targets against which to evaluate the performance of the managers in capital cities or field workers out in the provinces.

Take, for instance, the Congo Republique before it degenerated into its present state. It used to be one of the more organized countries in Central Africa, and several large conservation organizations had offices, even head offices, in the capital, Brazzaville.

I started visiting the Congo regularly in the early '90s, mainly to document the operations of the three great-ape sanctuaries there. (Two cater to chimpanzees and one to gorillas. All of them care for dozens of 'bushmeat orphans'.) Here are some of the facts I compiled on these trips:

I started wondering if there was any kind of law enforcement with regard to poaching and wildlife. I asked to see records that any poacher had ever been arrested. There were none.

This brings me back to objectives and targets: Where is the hope for conservation when: poachers are not arrested, loggers who break the law do not lose their licenses, and ministry officials ask you: What is the point when the Minister of the Environment eats bushmeat at every official function, and ministry officials rent out guns to poachers to supply the restaurants they own in logging concessions? (This happened in Cameroon, but I am sure the story is not so very different in Congo.)

What do you tell a villager who happily suggests that you first go to the capital and tell off the big guys who loot the national resources and economy in a big way, and then come back to him and tell him not to cut this tree or shoot that gorilla?

What hope is there for conservation under these circumstances? Are all of us who are concerned about the future of the wildlife and habitats in these parts simply wasting our time and a lot of somebody else's money?

A prominent conservation organization, to whom I offered a bushmeat expose for their in-house publication wrote back saying:

"The chief drawback, of course, was our firm conviction that publishing your article with your compelling photographs would have wide repercussions that certainly would adversely impact our scientists in Africa. An essential and exhaustive part of their job is to maintain good relations with the governments and indigenous people so that the Society's conservation projects will be permitted to continue."

To me, this says it all. It is a license to look the other way. For conservation organizations, it is suicidal to admit failure. Only success attracts donations. So let's tell the public about some of our very minor success stories. And let's ignore the mayhem around us.

Field representatives are expected to toe the company line: Maintain good relations. Do not make waves. It is a bad career move to be confrontational.

This need to be associated with success was apparent in mountain-gorilla conservation. Half a dozen conservation groups were competing to report past success rates: 347 apes, 355, now 364, etc. Today, to the best of my knowledge, there is not a single conservation project (except for the maintenance of some parks) that is tackling the bushmeat issue head on. The chance of failure is too high.

To bring this back to a business context: If a multinational ran conservation in Africa, they would set targets first. They would measure the results, and if targets could not be met they would pull out and go somewhere where a return on investment is possible. This would be somewhere where there is political will, or where it can be generated - in hotel management terms, where a ministry or a minister who does not pay his bills can be shown the door.

The IMF and other donor organizations regularly pull out of countries, especially if there is no political will. And they no longer make any bones about it. Currencies collapse and politicians shout, but the tune is called by the person who pays the fiddler.

I have never heard of a conservation organization quitting a country in a storm of publicity.

Conservation organizations do not criticize each other. This is another unwritten rule, and "the quiet, diplomatic approach achieves more than shouting and screaming" is a slogan I have heard over and over again. Is this not just another excuse for looking the other way? The governments concerned like to hide behind the fact that these major organizations have hung out their shields in their capital cities. Where is the problem? As long as these prominent groups are involved, we must be doing something right?

So, who will take action? Who will create the political will that would mean results might be achievable on the conservation front? Mr. Liboz, a very prominent French logger in Cameroon, went on camera stating that what was happening now was "Total destruction", and that there was no point in counting on the government, the loggers or the conservation community to effect any kind of change. He felt only a major international outcry would make a difference.

But, as long as the conservation community needs to publicize its very limited success stories in order to survive, and as long as they insist on the 'quiet, diplomatic' approach and classify shocking bushmeat publicity as sensationalizing the issue, there will be no such outcry.

Our politicians, as much as any, govern by opinion poll. If the public speaks, the decision makers listen. The ivory crisis, whale hunting and seal clubbing became major issues through public concern. What will it take to turn the large-scale slaughter of chimpanzees, gorillas and elephants into a similarly emotional campaign? If we can do nothing for our closest animal relatives, what hope is there for the giant pangolin and the potto? And what does that say about mankind as a whole?

In tropical Africa, the western donor community is still taken seriously. If large sticks and carrots are our best hope, then our best bet is to link donor funding to environmental performance, in the same way as human rights issues are linked to donor assistance.

As a photographer, I would want to close with a picture that this journal unfortunately cannot publish. This image is the result of a German journalist asking me to illustrate the price difference between bushmeat and that of domesticated species, such as pork and beef. We went to the Yaounde bushmeat market and bought two gorilla arms. We then acquired the equivalent amount of beef. Next, we bought the frozen head of a chimpanzee and matched it with a much bigger pig's head. We took all this back to the hotel and stuck on price tags to illustrate that beef and pork were less than half the price of gorilla and chimp.

This is clearly a question of supply and demand: the supply of great-ape meat - and that of other species - to satisfy the taste buds of a growing urban middle class willing to pay a premium for the product. The problem is that this practice is no longer sustainable, and has not been for some time. (Plus it carries a serious health risk for mankind as a whole: See Ebola, HIV/SIV and HTLV/STLV). Increasing demand and decreasing supply will inevitably result in prices going up. With a limited resource, this will go on until there is no more supply, which according to a Polish missionary will elicit the response: "Why has God done this to us?" Supply, demand and pricing are the domain of economists and business people, so why not see what kind of 'solution' they can come up with?

Karl Ammann

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