February 27, 2013
International Trade Meeting Offers Hope for Greater Protection of Wildlife
by Mark Jones
The world is facing a biodiversity crisis, and many of the plants and animals we share it with are threatened with extinction.
There are multiple reasons for this crisis, and for many species the solutions are complex. However, international trade in wild animals and their body parts is one significant threat that can and should be addressed.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was formed for exactly that purpose—it brings countries together to regulate the international trade in wildlife.
The upcoming meeting
CITES celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and its 177 member countries (‘Parties’) will convene at the 16th meeting of the ‘Conference of the Parties’ in Bangkok, Thailand, in March to consider the regulation of international trade across a whole range of species and circumstances. As well as representatives of the Parties, a large number of non-governmental organisations, including animal protection organisations and wildlife trade interest groups, will be in attendance.
UK government officials will be attending the meeting and the UK will vote as per the agreed line taken by the European Union.
HSI/UK has been working tirelessly in the months leading up to the March meeting. Members of our staff have met with Members of Parliament, Ministers, officals from the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and other stakeholders to raise awareness of the issues and encourage the UK government to support better protection.
Species under discussion
Among the proposals that will be discussed are bans on international commercial trade in polar bears and African manatees (sea cows) and their parts, and restrictions on the trade in a number of species of sharks and rays threatened by the trade in their fins and other body parts.
The Conference will also consider proposals to restrict the export of rhino horn hunting trophies from South Africa in the light of the poaching crisis that is threatening the very future of the world’s remaining five species of rhino.
Elephants will feature heavily in the discussions, with calls for a strict moratorium on any further sale of ivory stockpiles while efforts are ongoing to bring an end to the massacre of elephants across Africa to supply the seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in the Far East.
Imperfect, but important
CITES is a complex and often frustrating forum in which to work, where the protection of endangered and threatened species is at the mercy of scientific, cultural and political considerations. Nevertheless, it is a vital component to species protection and can make a great contribution to the very future of species and biodiversity as a whole.
Humane Society International will be there to lobby CITES Parties to adopt a precautionary approach in support of species conservation and animal welfare.
Mark Jones is executive director of Humane Society International/UK.