CITES: Over 40 years old and long in the tooth

4 Mar 2013

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
CITES 2013 – Bangkok

At its signature 40 years ago, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, was visionary; a fact highlighted by speeches at Bangkok during the opening of its 16 plenary session. Today, it’s falling behind. CITES is disconnected from chemical and radioactive contamination of wildlife, climate change, political chaos and population changes that increase the speed of the extinction of biodiversity.

In 40 years, CITES has fumbled with fruitless strategies and has ceded to the calls of the partisans of recreational and exotic animal hunting. They preach that the Winchester and other such weapons of destruction will secure a future for wildlife. Hunting permits, additional revenues from safaris, exportation taxes for hunting trophies should all contribute to maintain elephant, rhinoceros and other mammal populations; a caricatured viewpoint of a circular economy. Hunting appeals to fraud and poaching.

According to CITES, the legal trade of ivory or other animal materials should eradicate illegal trafficking. But does the legal trade of weapons, cigarettes, and medicines stop the smuggling of weapons, cigarettes or, medicines? Faithful to its old credo, in 1997 in Harare, Zimbabwe, CITES lifted the global embargo on ivory in place since 1989. 50 tons of ivory were then sold in Japan. China rushed into the system. A bad signal was sent to smugglers; it’s easy to mix illegal ivory in with legal ivory. 16 years later, the slaughter of African elephants is peaking and ivory gleams throughout Asia.

In a perfect world Robin des Bois, participant and observer in CITES since 1988, would hope that the hunting of elephants and rhinoceros would be forbidden and that the stocks of tusks and horns would be seized and burnt in a public place.

In the real world, Robin des Bois would consider the reunion at Bangkok successful if polar bears and the African manatees were added to Appendix I (illegal to trade internationally), if the export of hunting trophies of rhinoceroses was suspended from South Africa and Swaziland, and if the commitment to re-add all of the elephant populations in Appendix I was completed before the next plenary meeting in three years.

Robin des Bois is also in favour of the proposal of adding five species of sharks and manta rays to Appendix II (supervised trade).






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