Presidential Blog from CITES Standing Committee 66 in Geneva.

The Best and Only Tool in the Box!

The Born Free team is here in Geneva working hard on many aspects of wildlife trade. Their reports will bring you more news and results soon.

But, in the meantime, here are my broader reflections on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Can it be possible that I have now been to every CITES meeting of the Conference of the Parties (the big meeting which takes place every 3 years) since Lausanne in 1989? Wow – I feel old!

On top of that I have also been to almost every CITES Standing Committee meeting since then. They are held every single year!

Some say why bother? Some say CITES is a busted flush, ineffective, a ‘talking shop’ that has presided over the mass slaughter of elephants, rhino, tigers, sharks, pangolins and many more species to fuel international trade.

Well – FOR SURE – CITES can do better. A lot better. It can and should get tough and take countries to task if they break the rules. It can and should show compassion and pay far greater attention to the welfare impacts of live animal trade. It can and should be wise and take a precautionary approach to trade – where there is doubt, then the benefit of the doubt should go to the species of animal or plant, not to the traders.

And it can and should get real and take resolute action to end trade if species are threatened by international trade, or animals suffer.

The question is: will it?

Well that’s why Born Free and the other members of the 100 organisation-strong Species Survival Network is here! Pushing hard to keep things moving in the right direction.

The worldwide outcry from hundreds of millions of people confronted with the killing of Cecil the Lion;  the wiping out of up to 1,000 of Tanzania’s elephants a month, every month, for the last 5 years; the brutal impact of poaching on South Africa’s beleaguered rhino population – these tragedies are making many countries, and our elected representatives, think again.

I sense a change in mood. The legal, international trade in wild species of fauna and flora – including fish and plants, such as timber species – is valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars each and every year. The illegal trade, alone, is worth between twenty and thirty billion dollars each year and can drive species towards extinction. Recognising that, as the human population continues to sky-rocket, our combined impact on wild species and the wild places where they live may simply be too great to allow for any further trade. An example of this might be great whales. Another is tigers. Others should be rhino, lion, elephant, various species of fish and reptile.

Without a global mechanism enabling us to bring about the end of commercial trade, when required, we will never achieve the results so many of us hope and work for. Of course, implementing the decisions of CITES relies on the willingness and dedication of each individual country. But that is where we can each play our role – encouraging, campaigning, voting, condemning and supporting, as appropriate, so that we end up with the world we want to see, not simply accepting the world as it is today.

In short: CITES is the best and only tool in the box that has the potential to address international trade in wild species of fauna and flora on a global basis. We would be unwise to lose it. We would be wise to use it to deliver effective protection wherever we can.

Blogging off

Will Travers


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