CITES Standing Committee: A Reflection
Thank you for all of your messages of support during the intense and challenging CITES meeting last week. Now that we are back home from Geneva, we need to reflect on what happened and ascertain exactly which mountains we still need to climb in the build-up to the much bigger CITES meeting in March next year, known as “CoP16” (the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES). I have reflected on some of these issues below:
African Elephants: It was extremely encouraging to see recognition by CITES last week that elephants are facing a serious poaching crisis across their entire range, and that urgent measures must be taken to tackle this. However, the real challenge now is to find an agreement about what those urgent measures should be. Some still believe that legal trade is the answer. However, experts like Born Free believe the exact opposite to be the case! The ban should be strengthened. Furthermore, funds should be provided to implement the African Elephant Action Plan, which contains all the activities needed to protect elephants across Africa. The fierce debate will continue at CoP16, as we are likely to see proposals for ivory trade and the controversial ‘decision-making mechanism’ for legalised trade being discussed. Keep an eye on www.bloodyivory.org for news on CITES ivory issues in the build-up to CoP16.
Asian Elephants: For the first time, CITES recognised that the illegal trade in wild, live-caught elephants in Asia is a serious threat. Reports have revealed that elephants are being smuggled from Myanmar to Thailand for use in tourist camps and for export to circuses in China. Born Free would like to congratulate our SSN Colleagues at Elephant Family for their hard work and dedication on this issue, and it is something we will push the CITES Parties to take strong action on at CoP16.
Tigers: The battle against tiger farming continues… China remains determined to retain its sovereign right to ‘farm’ tigers and states that this has no impact on poaching of wild tigers. However, CITES took strong action last week by directing all countries to declare all stockpiles of captive-bred or confiscated tiger body parts and derivatives along with actions proposed to deal with the stockpiles. Together with our SSN Friends at the Environmental Investigation Agency we will be keeping a close eye on the reports (especially from China) that result from this.
Grey Parrots: It was extremely disappointing to see CITES approve the lifting of the suspension of grey parrot exports from Cameroon. From now on, 3,000 birds a year will be exported for the pet trade, but this is only the tip of the iceberg as untold numbers die in the process of capture. Born Free has supported the efforts of the wildlife law enforcement organisation in Cameroon called LAGA who have on numerous occasions prevented illegal trade in grey parrots. LAGA will need more support than ever now that the ban has been lifted as there is a real chance the illegal trade will flourish and criminal syndicates will exploit the situation.
Rhinoceros: last week CITES Parties expressed alarm at the extremely serious rhino poaching situation. So far this year, 296 rhino have been killed in South Africa alone. CITES, led by the UK, proposed actions to try and stop the illegal trade, including the development a demand-reduction strategy, based on ‘…evidence of traditional cultural practices and beliefs about the medicinal and beneficial properties of rhino horn’. Vietnam was also tasked with providing a significant amount of information to CITES, including measures in place to monitor the rhino horn market. See Will’s video blog here.
There will be many, many more issues that could be decided at CoP16, including trade in timber species and sharks (the global shark fin trade is having a devastating impact). Born Free will keep you updated on as many of these issues as possible.
The international trade in endangered species is massive business. It is worth billions of dollars every year. Good decisions by CITES result in long-term protection for a species, whilst bad decisions can lead to extinction.
I am so pleased that Born Free is there to protect species in need and support countries that want to protect their wildlife from unsustainable trade. Our CITES team couldn’t do this without your help, and we all sincerely thank you for this.