10TH JULY 2020

“Covid-19 and New Zealand’s Role in the Global Illegal Wildlife Trade”


Covid19 and NZ illegal wildlife trade

By Fiona Gordon – Environmental Policy Analyst & Ambassador to the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand

The pandemic which has sent countries into lock down and wiped billions from economies has refocused attention on the illicit trade of wild animals.  From pangolin scales to primate skulls, elephant ivory and tiger bone the wildlife products arriving at New Zealand’s border provide an insight into the truly global extent of the illegal trade in wildlife.

Scientists say the coronavirus (SARS CoV-2) that causes Covid-19 most likely originated in bat populations.  Somewhere along its evolutionary path it probably jumped to an intermediary host animal before acquiring its ability to infect humans. As it forges a path of misery around the globe it is exposing our inadequacies – those of national health systems, international agreements, and ultimately our conservation efforts.

Wild animals can naturally carry potentially harmful bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses including coronaviruses. It is when these jump to humans—called a spillover event—that they can cause illnesses, known as zoonotic diseases.

Fortunately for us, intact and healthy ecosystems tend to provide a kind of natural firewall between humans and zoonotic diseases.

There are literally hundreds of coronaviruses circulating among animals such as pigs, camels, bats and cats. Of the seven coronaviruses known to affect people, three have emerged from their animal reservoirs to cause serious and widespread human illness and death in just the last two decades: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012 and now Covid-19.

Humankind has now poked so many holes in nature’s firewalls that coronaviruses can now just walk right on through. From the destruction of forests to our relentless encroachment into pristine habitats – in our failure to conserve the natural world, we have failed ourselves as well.

The stand-out failure though has to be our ongoing inability to halt the illegal wildlife trade. By default and by association, we’ve also failed to control the legal international wildlife trade effectively.  Concerns are now being raised that the shortcomings of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which regulates international wildlife trade could even expose us to the next pandemic.

At a recent IUCN Commission on Environmental Law webinar event, John Scanlon AO, former Secretary-General to CITES, explained that “CITES does not regulate the way the wildlife is harvested, handled, or stored in the source state, or how it’s handled, stored, sold or consumed in the destination state.” He said that, “captive breeding facilities, which now account for close to 60% of trade in animals, are not assessed by CITES on public health grounds. Yet all of these activities can pose a risk factor for the emergence of zoonotic diseases.”

Despite aiming to regulate international trade, as Scanlon points out, CITES does not create enforcement authorities or require illegal trade to be criminalized, and it is not a natural forum for police and other enforcement officials.

Such shortcomings are perhaps best illustrated by CITES’ inability to end wildlife crime, which is estimated to be the world’s fourth biggest illegal trade. A pertinent example is that of the pangolin, which has been suggested as a potential intermediary host of Covid-19, although research is so far inconclusive.  Despite being afforded the highest-level of protection under CITES, the illegal trade in these scaly anteaters is at a record high, according to Scanlon.

With the unenviable reputation of being the most heavily trafficked wild mammal in the world it should be no surprise that pangolin body parts arrive in New Zealand too.

Between 2017 and 2018 official data show 12 occurrences of seizure or surrender (seizure records) of items consisting of pangolin body parts – a total of about 152 individual items including sachets of whole and powdered scales, bags of raw ingredients, tea bags and soup, a medicine ball, packets of tablets and pills, and a necklace containing a pangolin claw/foot. Most of the items arrived from China.

These products represent only a minute portion of the more than 18,000 seizure records of CITES listed wildlife over the same two year period.  About 65% of the seizure records are for corals and shells, another 8% are for the roots of plants, and a further 11% are for meat – typically crocodile and alligator meat, but also featuring minke whale, dolphin meat, bear, turtle and python meat.

Table 1:

*Seizure Records include records of seizure and records of surrender.

Data Source: New Zealand CITES Illegal Trade Report 2017 and 2018, provided by Department of Conservation, New Zealand. Graph Source:  Data analysis, summary and graph produced by Gordon Consulting, New Zealand.

Medicines make up a further 7% of the seizure records, over half of which are for Saussurea Costus, an endangered flowering thistle.  Other have been made from the body parts of animals such as Saiga Antelope, Musk Deer, leopard, tiger, bears (including bear bile), primates, turtles, pangolin and snakes. Other products include leather products, elephant ivory and feet, and the skulls, teeth and claws of leopard, bears, and lynx.

It makes for a gruesome shopping list and it is worthwhile recalling that each seizure record can and often does consist of multiple individual items – sometimes hundreds and even thousands of items.  About 5% of the seizure records represent more than 69,000 individual items made from wildlife considered to be threatened with extinction. Listed on CITES Appendix I, these are the most endangered species of all those listed under CITES and international trade is prohibited, except for exceptional cases.  The remaining seizure records are almost entirely for species listed on Appendix II.  These are species not necessarily now threatened with extinction, but they could become so if trade is not closely controlled.  This is not a mere numbers game.

So, how do all these wildlife products get to New Zealand?  By far the majority of seizure records are related to airports, in particular Auckland Airport situated within the country’s largest city. Data further indicate that 64% of the seizure records are associated with New Zealand citizens and 32% are associated with visitors.

Table 2:

*Seizure Records include records of seizure and records of surrender.

Data Source: New Zealand CITES Illegal Trade Report 2017 and 2018, provided by Department of Conservation, New Zealand. Graph Source:  Data analysis, summary and graph produced by Gordon Consulting, New Zealand.

Table 3:

*Seizure Records include records of seizure and records of surrender.

Data Source: New Zealand CITES Illegal Trade Report 2017 and 2018, provided by Department of Conservation, New Zealand..Graph Source:  Data analysis, summary and graph produced by Gordon Consulting, New Zealand.

It is a depressing picture and one that exemplifies the truly global extent of the illegal wildlife trade.  On a positive note, New Zealand has introduced an instant infringement fine system for offences relating to the international wildlife trade, which is a useful enforcement tool in addition to prosecution options.  The Government is also due to announce the results of the 2019 review of the Trade in Endangered Species Act, the key national piece of legislation relating to the international trade in endangered species, which included an option to ban New Zealand’s domestic trade in elephant ivory.

Along with regulation and law enforcement, demand reduction strategies form part of the package needed to combat wildlife crime effectively. With such a rich database at its fingertips, the New Zealand Government is well positioned to develop targeted strategies which aim to shift purchasing preference and buyer behaviour away from illegal wildlife products.  Former Prime Minister Helen Clark says, “It is vital that New Zealand strengthens its vigilance against this vile illicit trade, and not become a weak link in the chain of global efforts aimed at stopping it.”

Scanlon urges that we all “finally grasp the nettle with wildlife crime” and recognise the massive impacts wildlife crime has on economies, ecosystems, public and animal health, security, and people.

“The risks of future wildlife-related pandemics are real, and the stakes are high,” he says, “preventing them requires bold reforms to wildlife crime and trade laws. Making these reforms rests with countries. Now is the time to present them with viable options and a broad alliance of organisations has come together to do just that under the banner Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime.

“I am delighted to Chair the Initiative,” says Scanlon, “which is advocating for and offering technical support to create a new international agreement on wildlife crime and to amend existing international wildlife trade laws to include public health and animal health into decision making.”

The risks of future wildlife-related pandemics can come from unregulated, regulated, and illegal wildlife trade. This is a matter for every nation to be far more cognisant of in the wake of Covid-19.

Published: Journal of African Elephants 





A submission to the Department of Conservation in response to the Review of the Trade In Endangered Species Act 1989 Discussion Document, September 2019 (DOC Discussion Document).

“This submission focuses on Section 3 of the DOC Discussion Document and provides comment on Sections 1,2,4-8. This submission is set out as follows:

Section 1 – Objectives and criteria

Section 2 – CITES

Section 3 – Trade in elephant ivory: – Background & Overview – Mandate to close domestic ivory market – Domestic ivory trade – Seizure data and illegal trade – International trade – Correlation: Ivory trade & illegal killing of elephants – Effects of ivory trade bans – Discussion Document Proposed Options – Other specimens – Other matters

Section 4 – Giving effect to the Treaty and travel with Taonga

Section 5 – Personal and household effects

Section 6 – Technical errors on permits

Section 7 – Cost recovery Section 8 – Implementation and monitoring and evaluation

READ FULL SUBMISSION HERE: the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand


“New Zealand Domestic Ivory Trade Doubles”

20TH AUGUST 2019


The meeting of Parties to the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva this week marks almost 3 years since CITES agreed for the first time in its history that national ivory markets contributing to poaching or illegal trade should be closed.

The historic decision stemmed from grave concerns over continued poaching of elephants for their ivory and the acknowledgement that legal domestic markets provide cover for criminals to launder illegal ivory. Concerns that remain the focus of discussions at CITES Conference of Parties over the next couple of days.

Fortunately, domestic ivory markets are steadily closing. The United States, France, China and the United Kingdom have now closed theirs and Hong Kong is set to follow suit in 2021. Last week Singapore announced it will also close its market – an announcement that came shortly after Singapore authorities made a record haul of 8.8 tonnes of illegal ivory seized in transit between Democratic Republic of the Congo and Vietnam.

Bucking this strong international trend however is New Zealand, whose domestic ivory trade remains devoid of any internal regulations and alarmingly appears to have increased dramatically since 2016.

A recently completed 10 month survey of just two New Zealand auction houses found over 800 ivory items for sale, more than double the number found for sale at four New Zealand auction houses during a 9 month survey reported in 2016.

The number of auctions offering ivory for sale appears to have increased by 60 percent and at one New Zealand auction alone a swathe of ivory carvings disappeared out the door for around NZD $10,000 (USD $6,600).  A large proportion of the ivory items found for sale were entirely made of ivory, including carvings, okimonos and netsukes.

The observed increase in trade adds much weight to the calls of more than 40,000 people in support of campaigns led by the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand and African Wildlife Foundation asking the New Zealand government to shut its domestic ivory trade down.

“It is  very disturbing to learn of the steep increase in the amount of ivory for sale in New Zealand,” said Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Former UNDP Administrator, Rt. Honourable Helen Clark,  “I support a ban on its sale along the lines introduced by the Government of the United Kingdom. New Zealand must not be a weak link in international efforts to curb the ivory trade which is responsible for the slaughter of elephants.”

Both auction houses surveyed are registered auctioneers under New Zealand’s Auctioneers Act 2013 which requires records to be maintained, including descriptions of property offered for sale.  Surprisingly, few of the catalogue descriptions for each of the ivory items offered for sale included statements, let alone any verifiable evidence, regarding their age or source.

Any assumption that all ivory on New Zealand’s domestic market must be antique, simply doesn’t hold true either. Two convictions for illegal trade involving thousands of dollars-worth of ivory have already illustrated how illegally imported ivory can easily be traded on New Zealand’s domestic market under the guise of legality.

Further, thousands of elephant ivory carvings, ivory pieces and tusks have been legally imported into New Zealand since the 1989 international trade ban for non-commercial purposes.  Over 60 per cent of these imported ivory items are noted as being sourced from the ‘wild’ or of ‘unknown’ source.  Most of this ivory arrives from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and some from Mozambique or it is re-exported from Great Britain and Australia.

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation confirm that any ivory legally imported after the 1989 ban can legitimately be sold on New Zealand’s domestic market.   Even items specifically imported for non-commercial purposes have no restriction placed on their future sale.

“There is no question that the domestic ivory markets in countries like New Zealand and elsewhere continue to fuel corruption and poor governance, plus the wanton killing of elephants in Africa,” says Kaddu Sebunya, Chief Executive Officer of African Wildlife Foundation.

“There isn’t enough ivory in the world to satisfy current demand”, says Sebunya, “so as long as a market exists for ivory, you can be sure that an elephant somewhere is dying to sustain it. Elephants need their ivory, and the world needs elephants. We, at African Wildlife Foundation, will continue to call for the closure of all ivory markets and to speak up for elephants, which need our protection today more than ever.”

With the reported increased activity on the domestic ivory market, no domestic trade regulations and two convictions for illegal trade in ivory, it remains difficult to see how New Zealand is implementing the CITES 2016 decision urging domestic ivory trade closures.

In a positive move, the New Zealand delegation to the 2018 London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade made a formal commitment to “assess the need for regulation of New Zealand’s domestic ivory trade”.

About the Author:

Fiona Gordon is a New Zealand based environmental policy analyst and an Ambassador to the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand.  She has undertaken research into the international and domestic ivory trade since 2014. Fiona was principal researcher and co-author of the 2016 report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) “Under the Hammer” which provided the results of the first ever investigation into the nature of the auction house trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn in Australia and New Zealand.



MAY 2019

“Stealing Their Future” 

On her whistle stop “Rewind the Future” tour of New Zealand, internationally renowned conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall tells me that she has met many young people who have lost hope in the future and have become apathetic.  Dr. Goodall then makes a poignant point “we haven’t been borrowing our childrens’ future, we have been stealing it, and we are still stealing it today.”

Indeed, it’s impossible to ignore the science and yes, it’s depressing.  Climate change and biodiversity loss has placed us all smack-bang in the middle of a planetary emergency.

The recent report on global biodiversity from the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has made it clear that nature is humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’ and that ‘safety net’ is stretched almost to breaking point.

Unfortunately the messages in the Environment Aotearoa 2019 report from the Ministry for the Environment largely mirror this international assessment.  Our own ecosystems are in crisis.  Almost 4,000 of our native species are at risk or threatened with extinction.

Horizons Regional Council’s State of Environment Report 2019 released on 28 May, notes that almost all the river water monitoring sites in our region fail water quality criteria for phosphorus, bacteria and clarity.  Only 500 of the 1,109 biodiversity remnants have been ‘visited and evaluated’.  We can also expect changes to annual average rainfall, reduced summer river flows in the Manawatu and a faster programme of work to offset changes to river sedimentation due to climate change.

We can slice and dice the information any which way we choose but we get the same result:  a paradigm shift is required.  Remaining deniers need to step aside.  For far too long so called ‘greenie’ issues have been relegated to the ‘tree huggers’ and the ‘sock-and-sandal-wearers’.

This convenient deflection has no doubt provided short term economic benefits, but the reality is that this approach hasn’t worked for any of us.  Mainstreaming environmental priorities into our everyday decision making is now a necessity, for people and planet.

Enter, hope.  Our kids have found their voice and apathy is turning into action.  Youth have the smarts – they ‘get’ what the majority of previous generations chose to ignore – without nature we are all doomed.  So, how can we support this generation so ready and willing to right this ship?

It clear that central and local government actions alone will not be enough to reverse environmental decline.  Collaboration and partnership across all sectors of society will be key to addressing biodiversity loss and climate change.

Fortunately, new coalitions are emerging.  I was heartened to watch as Dr. Goodall endorsed and signed the Aotearoa Deal for Nature on 23 May, an unprecedented agreement across six of Aotearoa’s non-governmental organisations, the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand, Forest & Bird, WWF NZ, Greenpeace NZ, the Environmental Defence Society, Environment and Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa (ECO).

It’s an ambitious plan setting out minimum priorities and actions for protecting and restoring New Zealand’s imperilled wildlife and environment.  Such agreements provide a much needed sliver of hope amongst all the doom and gloom of recent environmental reporting.

Guardian 6 June 2019



JUNE 2019


Ivory Radio NZ June 2019

“In 1989 a total ban on the international commercial trade in ivory was put in place, it save the African elephant population. But since then, thousands of elephant carvings and tusks have come into the country – seemingly legally imported.

It’s very hard to know if these were sourced before the ban or after, more recently. This has led to calls for regulation in our market.

Fiona Gordon, Director of Gordon Consulting and an Ambassador to the Jane Goodall Institute New Zealand, has written a piece on this and joins us to discuss it further. ”

Listen to Radio Interview



MAY 2019


“Five fishermen casting their rods, two hauling in their nets, six seated buddhas, intricate pagodas and an army of miniature immortals. There’s perhaps one hundred of them in total.  Each a lifeless creamy white, sitting silently on their un-unique wooden bases.  Some look remarkably similar, almost identical.  Some appear just like the ones at another antique shop a few hundred kilometres away.  So similar in fact that one could be forgiven for thinking they might be from the same artist or manufacturer.

Only one of them is noted as ‘antique’.  There’s no reference to age whatsoever for the rest. They don’t sit for long inside their glass display cabinets. The ivory at one New Zealand auction alone soon disappears out the door for around NZD $10,000 (USD $6,600).

It is a matter of opinion as to whether the purchase price is extortionate or not, but these little ivory trinkets were undoubtedly obtained through lethal extortion.  Whether 100 years ago or yesterday, the African elephant brutally slaughtered for her ivory tusks would not have been compliant, she would not have willingly given her life. Nor that of her baby’s, killed for her tiny tusks or to draw in the rest of the herd or left to die of stress and starvation.”




What started as an idea back in 2016 to re-connect urban dwellers with nature is now a fully fledged project ready to be created on the ground!

“Urban Eels: Our Sustainable City” is a collaboration between Gordon Consulting and Tanenuiarangi Manawatū Incorporated, working in partnership with central and local government and other key organisations.  The project draws from the IUCN Urban Protected Areas and work of the IUCN Urban Specialist Group.

This inviting space will be set within Palmerston North City, New Zealand, immersing urban dwellers in nature and offering visitors an expression of the Maori  world view.   There will be native eels to feed, story telling through art work and sculpture and interactive features to enjoy – all focusing on the enduring relationship between man and tuna (eel)  and the importance of ritenga (customary practice), tikanga (customary system, law) and Rangitaanenuirawa (the expression of Kaitiakitanga or stewardship).



Urban Eels Concept Design

Concept Drawing

Urban Eel Signatories

Collaborative Partners

Background to Urban Eels:

As our cities continues to grow, we will have to try to create new space for nature within the urban fabric, make nature more accessible to people and provide interpretation and education wherever possible.” [Urban Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)]

  • People living in cities have diminishing contact with nature.
  • Effective conservation depends on support from urban voters, consumers, donors, and communicators.
  • The implications of this situation are many and diverse, but essentially it makes the conservation of nature ever more urgent and more difficult to deliver.


ARTICLE: “Thousands of protected species seized at the border”

August 2018.

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Read Full Article: Thousands of Protected Species Seized At Border



12 September 2017

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With a lack of appropriate enforcement tools at the border and unregulated domestic markets, if you manage to get your ivory or rhino horn into New Zealand or Australia, you are home and hosed to make a killing.

“Let’s get serious about wildlife crime.” “The future of Elephants is in our hands.” “Listen to the Young Voices.” These annual World Wildlife Day messages were brought home with the conclusion of the inaugural United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) 2016 World Wildlife Crime Report that all regions of the world play a role as a source, transit or destination for contraband wildlife.

The Report called for the introduction of national legislation to regulate the possession, use and sale of the most threatened wildlife products from other parts of the world. It offered potential solutions, including providing customs agents with the right tools to conduct international wildlife crime enforcement. Measures required as part of the multi-faceted strategy to combat wildlife crime, world wide.

Read full Article: Conservation Action Trust 



5 October 2017

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Radio New Zealand Nine to Noon Interview. 

While New Zealand may seem very far away from elephant and rhino country – it is not immune to trafficking. Fiona Gordon was the lead researcher and co-author of the 2016 “Under the Hammer” report, a 9-month investigation, published by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, into the ivory and rhino horn trade in Australia and New Zealand. She says the Pacific is increasingly becoming a source and transit region for illegal wildlife trafficking, and Australia and New Zealand should take a lead.

Listen to the Interview with Kathryn Ryan: Nine to Noon Interview



4 September 2017

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The seizure of wildlife products has more than doubled from 2011 to 2015, with shells, seahorses, corals and butterflies among the items being seized at the country’s borders.

Figures from the Department of Conservation showed the number of seizures were up from 2,268 in 2011 to 5,809 in 2015.

Over the four years from 2007 to 2011, 13,000 wildlife seizures were reported in total. This cumulative figure rose to 19,221 for the next four-year period ending in 2015.

Environmental policy analyst Fiona Gordon said despite the high rates of seizures no-one was fined in the four years to 2015, and there were only eight prosecutions under New Zealand’s Trade in Endangered Species Act.

Read full Article: No fines despite wildlife products seized at our borders


National Geographic Article


Fiona Gordon’s article  “New Zealand’s Dirty Ivory Trade Exposed” was published in National Geographic “A Voice for Elephants” November 2016. 


In April Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta set fire to a stockpile of confiscated elephant ivory that amounted to the tusks of about 6,700 illegally killed elephants. He did so in an effort to show his country’s commitment to saving Africa’s elephants, stating:

“No-one, and I repeat no one, has any business in trading in ivory, for this trade means death of our elephants and death of our natural heritage.”

At New Zealand auction houses, one elephant tusk fetched $2,032 (NZD $2,900) at Art+Objects, another, at Cordy’s Fine Arts, went for $5,080 and an elephant ivory figure sold at Dunbar Sloane for $3,328.  It’s clear that demand for ivory in New Zealand remains high. It’s the same kind of demand that drives the current elephant poaching crisis in Africa.

New Zealand is part of the international illegal trade in ivory: During the past four years, three convictions have connected New Zealand’s dirty business directly to the U.S., U.K., and France.

Link to National Geographic Article “New Zealand’s Dirty Ivory Trade Exposed”




In September 2016 the collaborative work of Gordon Consulting, “For the Love of Wildlife”, “Nature Needs More” and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) resulted in the delivery of a communique, signed by 56 Australian and international organisations, to Australian Minister for Environment and Energy, Hon Josh Frydenberg, calling for a domestic trade ban on all elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. 

Minister Meeting Australia 2016

From left to right: Rebecca Keeble (IFAW Australia), Lynn Johnson (Nature Needs More), Fiona Gordon (Gordon Consulting), Hon Josh Frydenberg, Donalea Patman OAM (For the Love of Wildlife)

Link to Communique: Communique AUSTRALIA




Fiona Gordon of Gordon Consulting was the principal researcher and co-author of IFAW Under the Hammer , the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) 2016 Report which provides the results of the first ever investigation into the nature of the auction house trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn in Australia and New Zealand. 

Over a nine-month period more than 2,400 ivory items were found for sale at 153 auctions conducted by 17 auction houses. Investigators also found seven rhino horn items for sale at five auction houses. Very few of the catalogue listings for the ivory lots for sale referred to any provenance documentation about the item’s origin, history and authenticity; leaving potential purchasers at risk of breaking the law.


The Ivory and Rhino Horn trade in New Zealand and Australia

Read Full Report Here:

IFAW Under the hammer


3 March 2015

NZ Herald Article: “World Wildlife Day: Is that a crime you’re wearing?”

By Fiona Gordon

Environmental policy analyst Fiona Gordon says New Zealanders need to be better aware that their seemingly innocuous overseas shopping could be fueling the illegal wildlife trade.

Herald Wildlife Crime.pngMany traditional Asian medicines brought into New Zealand contain ingredients that come from a range of endangered animals – including tiger claws. Photo / Getty Images

Being singled out for a fashion faux pas is never nice, but the real fashion crimes are the ones arriving steadily at New Zealand’s international airports.

A 2013 report, published by the Transnational Environmental Crime Project at the Australian National University in Canberra, showed there were over 9000 incidents of illegal wildlife imported into New Zealand between 1980 and 2010 – almost twice that of the UK, and nine times more than our Aussie neighbors for the same period.

Is this something New Zealanders should be embarrassed about? Our nation is extremely well respected around the world for its effective border control. Such effectiveness may well be one of the reasons for the higher number of confiscations. But collecting illegal wildlife from other countries at our border is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff for these animals and plants. We should be at least a little shame faced by the numbers and we should certainly be more savvy with our overseas purchases….

Full Article: Is that A Crime You’re Wearing?


3 July 2014

NZ Herald Article: “World watching as NZ decides on ivory trading ban”

By Fiona Gordon

World Watching Trade ban

Elephant populations are in peril. Photo / Getty

“Only a truly global movement can end the slaughter of elephants,” Wildlife Conservation Society President Cristian Samper says, stating that such a decision by New Zealand would “show that your nation has stood up against poaching and trafficking and told the world that ivory consumption is unacceptable”.

Reports from US intelligence agencies and the UN show that profits from ivory trafficking are fuelling crime, corruption and violence in fragile African democracies and financing organisations that threaten security.

Samper’s view is echoed by Humane Society International President and CEO Andrew Rowan. “New Zealand’s close proximity to numerous biodiversity hotspots and hubs of illegal wildlife trade in the Asia-Pacific region make it an important ally,” he says.

Rowan considers publically destroying New Zealand’s seized ivory as an opportunity to assert regional and global leadership by becoming the first country in the region to do so, and to prohibit ivory trading. He adds that this would be a “symbolic gesture for New Zealand to show resolve in tackling wildlife trafficking”…..

Full Article: World watching as NZ decides on ivory trading ban




Gordon Consulting engaged with 15 of the world’s most influential leaders in conservation and high profile New Zealanders to develop the content of an Open Letter to the New Zealand Government regarding the international illegal wildlife trade. The Open Letter was delivered directly to Government and published in the Dominion Post 19 July 2014.

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13 May 2014

NZ Herald Article: “New Zealand’s role in elephant ivory trading”

By Fiona Gordon

A photo exhibition, petition and report highlight the plight of the elephant and New Zealand’s hidden role in international ivory trading. The report’s author, Fiona Gordon, explains how it fits together.

NZ role in ivory trade.pngA new petition seeks to expose New Zealand’s role in elephant ivory trading. Photo / Getty Images

Six powerful images depicting the elephant poaching crisis and rampant ivory trade in China and the Philippines form part of a world-renowned exhibition in Auckland, taking place as a petition is lodged to ban ivory trading in New Zealand.

The London Natural History Museum’s exhibition Wildlife Photographer of the Yearis showing at the Auckland Museum until August 3.

It includes six photos from award-winning wildlife photographer Brent Stirton. The caption for one image, titled The End of the Elephants, reads: “The patronage and obsession of such wealthy collectors sustains the trade in illegal ivory, creating an inevitable threat to elephant populations worldwide.”….

Full Article: New Zealand’s Role in Ivory Trade


New Zealand Ivory Trade Report


Gordon Consulting researched and published the first ever report on the New Zealand Ivory Trade 1980 – 2012.  The Report was submitted to the New Zealand Government and was used to inform the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee in making their decision on Petition 2011/108 of Virginia Woolf and 4,000 others.

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The report includes direct comment from African Wildlife Foundation (AWF): Dr. Patrick Bergin CEO; Born Free Foundation: Will Travers, Founder and CEO; Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA): Mary Rice, Executive Director Environmental Investigation Agency UK; Humane Society International (HIS): Andrew Rowan, Ph.D. President and CEO, Humane Society International Chief Scientific Officer, The Humane Society of the United States;  Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO): Vice Chairman, Peter Lindstrom; Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS): Cristian Samper, President and CEO.


14 March 2014

NZ Herald Article: “Canned lion hunting: South Africa’s dirty little secret”

By Fiona Gordon

SA DIrty Secret.pngAucklanders march to highlight the plight of the lion last Saturday. Photo: Amy Fleming

Last Saturday in Auckland, New Zealanders joined thousands of other protesters across the world in the first ever Global March for Lions, to highlight the plight of lions caught up in the ‘canned’ hunting industry.

Canned hunting is where the animals are enclosed, may have been reared for the hunt (so are almost tame) and may even have been drugged to make them easier to shoot.

According to the Big Life Foundation, an organisation working to establish a holistic conservation model in the Amboseli-Tsavo region of Africa, 75 per cent of Africa’s lions have been wiped out in just the past twenty years.

LionAid, a charity organisation working to protect and conserve endangered lions worldwide, reports that many nations have already lost their lions, and Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda predict local extinctions in the next ten years.

The NGO Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH) reports that there are fewer than 4000 lions left in the ‘wild’ in South Africa, but more than 8000 exist in captivity where they are “bred for the bullet or the arrow”. Chris Mercer, a conservationist and the founder of CACH, most recently put the number of ‘wild’ lions in South Africa at a mere 2734.

Full Article: Canned lion hunting: SA dIrty little secret


21 August 2014

NZ Herald Article: “Trademe Bans Ivory Sales”

By Fiona Gordon

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Ivory for sale today on

Trade Me has announced they will ban the sale of ivory and other animal parts of endangered species including rhinoceros, tigers, lion, leopards, jaguar, cheetah, elephants, gorilla, chimpanzee, red panda, dugong and manatees.

The ban will come into effect on September 17. It will become a breach of Trade Me’s terms and conditions for selling any item made of or containing ivory, regardless of age or size. There are only two exceptions – pianos with ivory keys manufactured before 1975 and bag pipes with ivory parts manufactured before 1975.

Earlier this year, Trade Me was urged to ban the sale of all endangered animal products by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)…..

Full Article: Trademe Bans Ivory Sales


20 January 2014

NZ Herald Article: “Opinion: Rhino horn medicine or safari auction – what’s the difference?”

By Fiona Gordon

Safari or medicineThe auction of a permit to kill an endangered black rhino has sparked controversy. Photo / Getty Images

Opinion: The auction of a permit to hunt an African black rhino for US$350,000 threatens the credibility of anti-wildlife trafficking efforts, says Fiona Gordon.

The demand for rhino horn, lion and tiger bone and elephant ivory for use in traditional medicine, or as a show of wealth or status in certain Asian cultures, is recognised internationally as a threat to the very survival of these iconic species. The need for campaigns to reduce demand is clear. In order to be successful, campaign messengers will naturally require a certain amount of credibility and authority – a tall order when rhinos, big cats and elephants continue to be sought-after hunting trophies, an acceptable practice in other cultures.

The Obama administration sent a clear message with a July 2013 executive order establishing a presidential task force and the Federal Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. On the Council’s agenda, at their first meeting in December in Washington DC, was the development of a national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking, which includes numerous initiatives to reduce demand in Asia for endangered species and their body parts, in particular elephant ivory and rhino horn.

Full Article: Opinion: Rhino Horn Medicine or Safari Auction


28 January 2014

NZ Herald Article: “No wild elephants by 2025?”

By Fiona Gordon

No WIld Elephants by 2025.pngRangers with confiscated ivory. Photo: © 2013 The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Conservation: One elephant is killed for its ivory every 15 minutes. At this rate none will roam in the wild by 2025.

Late last year, poachers added cyanide to waterholes in Zimbabwe, killing more than 300 elephants. In March 2013 an entire herd of elephants was slaughtered, in Cameroon, by an estimated 300 poachers riding horseback. In October 2012 the famous Matriarch Qumquat, born in 1968, and her two daughters, Qantina and Quaye, were found with their faces entirely hacked off. Qumquat’s orphaned calf, Quanza, is now in the care of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.

Sadly, these are but a few of the many poaching incidents that are now occurring alarmingly frequently in Africa, to feed an insatiable demand for ivory.

It hasn’t always been this way, although history is repeating itself. The reckless hunting and relentless ivory demand of the 1970s and 1980s decimated African elephant populations. A global ban on the ivory trade was put in place in 1989, such that only ivory sourced before 1989 could be traded….

Full Article: No Wild Elephants by 2025?


28 December 2013

NZ Herald Article: “Eschew the ivory trinket”

By Fiona Gordon

Eschew ivory trinket

Ivory bracelet. Photo: Getty images

Popular holiday destinations for New Zealanders unsurprisingly include African and Asian countries, providing a plethora of sunny options in comparison to our typically unpredictable festive season clime. On average over 5000 New Zealanders visit China, almost 3000 visit Thailand, and over 2800 visit Hong Kong and Malaysia each month. South Africa sees just over 1000 New Zealanders every month, and another 900 or so of us pop over to Vietnam.

Who could opt out of an African safari, the chance to view the iconic elephant, rhino and lion? China, with it’s lovable panda and the bustling mega-sized modern cities showcasing some of the world’s most remarkable infrastructure. And Thailand beckons with its noisy markets of Bangkok and stunning beaches in the South – a must for those who wish to bring home that “I-have-been-overseas-tan”.

Yes, travel is good for the soul, but it’s always good to get home too. And, when we do arrive home we will want to have brought with us a memento or two. Some will even have purchased an extra suitcase to accommodate their keepsakes, reluctantly paying for the excess baggage as well.

From chopsticks to a Thai silk scarf to a collection of fridge magnets, it really doesn’t matter what the memento is, as long as it reminds us of our travels.

With the exception of ivory, that is. Illegal ivory can turn up anywhere. It even turns up on New Zealand’s shores. But the main destinations and/or transit points for illegal ivory are China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Hong Kong, where it is difficult to spot amongst the legal domestic trades for ivory carvings and trinkets. Just last year, two jewelers in New York City, the center of America’s ivory trade, were caught with more than a ton of illegal ivory. Legal or not, every piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant….

Full Article: Eschew the ivory trinket


29 November 2013

NZ Herald Article: “Rhinos: Myth may wipe out a species”

By Fiona Gordon

Rhino Trade ArticleA four man anti-poaching team permanently guards Northern White Rhino on Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Photo / Brent Stirton

Conservation: The Rhinoceros is ‘consumed’ by those gambling on a myth or wanting to show off their individual wealth, and others who are simply proud to display their hunting trophy.

A 52-year-old woman in Vietnam is concerned when examinations reveal a spot on her right breast and a shadow on an ovary. When asked by National Geographic if she believes Rhino Horn may help cure her, she says “I don’t know, but when you think you might die, it can’t hurt to try it.” She drains her glass of ground amber-coloured horn mixed with water. “I hope it works,” she says.

The black rhinoceros is on the verge of extinction, with only an estimated 5055 black rhinoceroses left in the world. This 96 per cent decline over the past century is due largely to poaching. Despite the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 1977 international trade ban, Rhino Horn can fetch NZ$60,450 per kilogram in the Asian market…..

Full Article: Myth May Wipe Out A Species


4 December 2013

NZ Herald Article: “Urgent anti-poaching deal may save elephants”

By Sophie Barclay, Fiona Gordon

Urgent antipoaching dealThe African Elephant could disappear in ten years if current poaching levels continue. Photo / Getty Images

Conservation: African states located along the illegal ivory chain have this week agreed to implement immediate measures to stem the illegal trade and poaching of elephants throughout Africa.

The deal, struck at the African Elephant Summit and convened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the government of Botswana, is the first ever to highlight the whole ivory value chain from elephant range states, to ivory transit states including the Phillipines and Malaysia and states where ivory is eventually sold on the black market such as Thailand and China.

H.E. Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, President of the Republic of Botswana, said it was time for African and Asian states to work together to stamp out the ivory trade. “Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing and if we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act.”

Full Article: Urgent anti-poaching deal may save elephants


Environment Court Evidence


Gordon Consulting worked with Horizons Regional Council planners to research and prepare evidence for the Environment Court Hearing relating to landscapes under their Regional Policy Statement and Regional Plan.

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“Bringing the Spark Back to the Park” Gordon Consulting engaged with the community, Palmerston North City Council and Horizons Regional Council, to bring new life to an under utilized park in Palmerston North.

With generous local funding Peren Park now has two additional seats, boasts over 500 native plants and a wide limestone pathway for everyone to enjoy.  In March 2016 the new signage was unveiled, allowing the community to readily appreciate the history behind Peren Park and the man it is named after, Sir Geoffery Peren.

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