Melbourne woman combats illegal rhino-horn trade

One highly motivated person can have the impact of 10,000.  That's what one must conclude from the story of Lynn Johnson.

Johnson, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, was disturbed by a documentary about the slaughter of rhinos to sustain the illegal trade in rhino horn.  And she was appalled by a WWF report that the illegal trade has skyrocketed by 5000% since 2007.

Let the rhino keep his horns...

Let the rhino keep his horns...

So, despite having no training in wildlife conservation, Johnson set her mind to doing something about it.

Johnson decided to focus on Vietnam, a major consumer of rhino horn, which is a putative treatment for cancer and other ills.  So far she has raised $20,000 to place ads in Vietnamese newspapers and magazines, to fight the illegal trade.

But rather than pushing conservation, Johnson uses a different tack--emphasizing the potential risks for human health.  This is because South Africa has begun putting powerful poisons into rhino horn, to help deter the illegal trade. 

One of Johnson's ads cautions Vietnamese mothers not to risk poisoning their children.  Another warns businesspeople--who often give gifts of rhino horn during negotiations--not to risk sinking their business deal.

Johnson's next goal is to raise $250,000 on to put similar advertisements in major airports in Vietnam.

As Lynn Johnson is showing us, where there's a will, there's a way.  If rhinos could talk, they'd surely be thanking her.


Will Australia back-slide on its illegal logging bill?

Illegal logging is a serious and very real problem in the tropics, promoting forest loss and damage and robbing developing nations of up to US$30 billion in direly needed revenues each year.  Illegal loggers also have an unfair advantage over legitimate timber producers.  It's for such reasons that it would be absurd for Australia to roll back or weaken its anti-logging bill.

Logging trucks in Borneo--forests are falling fast.

Logging trucks in Borneo--forests are falling fast.

After a great deal of debate and research, the previous Australian Government finally passed an illegal logging bill in March 2013.  ALERT member Bill Laurance played an active role in this debate, briefing the Australian Senate and writing extensively about the importance of the bill.

Now the new Australian Government, led by the conservative Liberal-National Party Coalition under Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is considering repealing the hard-won bill, according to World Growth International, a pro-industry group that lobbies for large international timber producers.  The LNP has declared a wide-ranging war on what it calls "red and green tape".

Nobody likes excess bureaucracy, but the illegal-logging bill is playing an important role in helping to reduce illegal logging, along with comparable legislation in the US (the Lacey Act) and Europe (the FLEGT initiative).  Repealing or weakening it would be astonishingly unwise.

If the LNP presses ahead with this ill-advised tack, Australian and international scientists must be ready to speak up forcefully and often.