By Dominique van Heerden, CNN
As heads of state met in London for a major anti-poaching conference, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about everything from poaching, to conflict in the Central African Republic and Syria, and the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
The British government has just hosted the Illegal Wildlife Trading Conference in the hopes they, along with affected countries, can find a solution to protect the world’s most iconic species from extinction, because “we are in the eleventh hour”.
“Rhino populations have been devastated with one killed every ten or eleven hours at the moment. The illegal trade in ivory has doubled in the last six years,” Hague tells Amanpour.
Incidents of poaching are on the rise fueled by a growing demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asia.
There are also concerns that poaching is helping to fund violent groups in the region.
When asked what he expected to be different after this conference, Hague says this is a “turning point,” citing an important combination of measures that African countries are going to take, including destroying stockpiles of ivory.
And it’s not just African countries who have pledged to take action; he says the countries through whom these products are transported have committed to do more to intercept illegal ivory and “treat the trade as serious organized crime”.
“This is a moral issue that these great animals have as much right to inhabit this world as we do…”
Crisis in the Central African Republic
Another major problem stalking the African continent is the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic, where the United Nations is warning of “ethnic cleansing” as fighting between Muslims and Christians spirals out of control.
Although there are already French troops in the country, and thousands of African forces are being deployed, Hague says they need more help, and “more help is coming from Europe”.
Britain will not be sending troops to the Central African Republic though, instead they will help with humanitarian aid and logistical support, “but other European countries are going to do more,” Hague tells Amanpour, and he says it is “absolutely crucial” to have the involvement and support of other African states.
Assad “not intending to budge”
Christiane Amanpour also spoke to the UK’s Foreign Secretary about Syria, and the lack of progress in trying to find a solution to the country’s civil war. As the latest round of Geneva talks failed to bring about any notable progress, William Hague says President Bashar al-Assad is “clearly not intending to budge”.
“This has gone backwards and forwards over three years now. And so I think it would be a mistake for this regime to think it’s now so strong it doesn’t need to do anything.”
Britain is still providing help to the opposition, “practical support that isn’t lethal,” Hague says.
“We’ve never taken the position in any of these conflicts that we send lethal supplies. And it’s very hard for us to guarantee what happens to those lethal supplies. And that, of course, is a major difficulty for us.”
He adds that he is “not holding out any prospect” of changing position on lethal supplies in the near future, but says that Britain does want to be able to send “more practical support of other kinds that saves lives”.
The conflict in Syria is creeping closer to home for Britain where there are reports of British nationals traveling to Syria to fight in the war. Hague calls these reports “credible”.
“Hundreds of people from Britain and many other Western countries involved in going to fight in Syria and that is a huge concern for us,” he says.
Asked how he plans to tackle the problem, Hague tells Amanpour there are some actions they can take, like depriving people of their passports and canceling visas for those who are resident in the UK, who they “believe are a threat”.
But ultimately, he says, “the solution lies in resolving the conflict in Syria… That is the only long-term answer to this”.
A final thought on Sochi
There was a lot of uproar in the weeks leading up to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi over concerns about security and human rights in Russia.
But despite the “differences” between Britain and Russia, William Hague says he wants it all to go well.
“We want any Olympics anywhere in the world to be successful and to be safe,” he says, “and yes we have some differences with Russia over some issues such as LGBT rights, but we want them to succeed in hosting a successful Olympics”.
Click on videos above to watch Amanpour's extensive interview with William Hague.
Hong Kong has just announced that, in cooperation with mainland China, its customs enforcement seized $41 million worth of ivory tusks and other exotic animal parts.
The butchering of elephants is, according to the U.S. government, the result of massive organized crime, not simply excessive hunting. It is a topic that Christiane Amanpour has examined recently, with The New York Times’ Jeffrey Gettleman and with reporter Bryan Christy, who made a documentary for National Geographic called "Battle for the Elephants."
The full statement from the Hong Kong government is below.
By Juliet Fuisz, CNN
Many of us believed that the ban on ivory, more than two decades ago, had ended the illegal ivory trade and saved Africa's elephants.
But instead, the magnificent creatures are again in danger of extinction because of a resurgent soaring demand for ivory half a world away in China.
Twenty-five thousand elephants were killed in 2011 – poaching levels that had not been seen in more than ten years.
The U.S. government describes a new sort of ivory organized crime that spurs on these massacres by heavily armed militias. In many parts of the African continent, murder rates now exceed population growth, meaning that the African elephant could simply disappear altogether.
In the video above Christiane Amanpour previews a National Geographic documentary called "Battle for the Elephants," in which reporter Bryan Christy investigated how Asia's booming ivory industry is keeping African poachers in business.
By Samuel Burke, CNN
The slaughter of elephants and rhinos is happening on such a massive scale in Africa that the animals’ very existence is threatened.
Just this week poachers murdered an entire elephant family in Kenya. Eleven elephants were shot and killed from a helicopter – the country’s single worst slaughter on record.
These majestic animals are regularly killed using machine guns from helicopters – their tusks often used to make ivory trinkets.
The United States government says the butchering is not the result of excessive hunting, but rather organized crime, with black market ivory and horn worth some eight-billion dollars a year.
Stopping it is no longer only about protecting the planet's natural resources.
“It is also a national security issue, a public health issue and an economic security issue,” outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. Killing off these animals will affect the tourism dollars to Africa in the long term.