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CITES meeting to introduce a new generation of e-tools for wildlife conservation
Rhinos, new partnerships for tigers, forest
and arrangements for next CITES conference
also at the top of the agenda
Geneva, 6 July 2009 – a wiki manual to identify over 33,000
species, use of bar codes on alligator and other crocodile
skins, DNA profiling to track wildlife products, monitoring Internet-related
wildlife trade, e-permits and computerised Customs clearance
systems are some of the innovative technologies to be presented
at the 58th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES) to be held in Geneva from today till the 10th of July.
The CITES Standing Committee oversees the implementation of trade
rules for the recovery of 892 endangered species and the sustainable
use of other 33,000 wild animal and plant species, when the Conference
of the 175 CITES member States is not in session. International
trade in millions of products containing wildlife ingredients is
also regulated by the Convention and monitored by this Committee.
Some 250 participants from all over the world are expected
to attend, including government representatives, intergovernmental
bodies, business community and non-governmental organizations specialized
in wildlife conservation.
Among other issues, the Committee will hear about e-permitting
systems to allow more efficient regulation of international
trade in wildlife products. It will also discuss the causes
and modalities of rhino poaching escalation in southern
Africa, new partnerships for tigers, the volumes of mahogany
harvested and exported from Central and South America, and initiatives
to engage local communities in the conservation of saker falcons
in Mongolia. Finally, it will consider a report on the use of the
revenue generated by the one-off ivory sales conducted
species from the current pressures cannot occur without
the use of cutting-edge technologies at our disposal",
said Mr Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary-General of CITES.
"The increasing use of electronic solutions in the regulation
of wildlife trade and traceability of wildlife products
marks the entry of CITES into a new era of proactive conservation,"
Rhino poaching in southern Africa
Poaching of rhinoceroses and illegal trade in their
valuable horns for use in traditional medicine is one of
the most serious criminal activity currently facing the Convention.
It is also undermining at least 20 years of conservation efforts
in southern Africa. Detected cases of rhinoceros horn smuggling
from Africa to Asia reveal that criminal networks are using sophisticated
techniques, corruption and abuse of diplomatic immunity to perpetrate
their crimes. Poaching of these animals is highly dangerous and,
this year alone, several poachers have been killed during exchanges
of gunfire with wildlife and parks department patrols.
The Standing Committee decided last year on the establishment
of a CITES Rhinoceros Enforcement Task Force, consisting of law
enforcement officials from a range of countries, together with representatives
of Interpol and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. This year, the
Committee will review the recommendations of the task force and
consider new measures to protect these animals. Although rhinoceros
populations saw an increase in numbers in the 1990s, the recent
upsurge in poaching and illegal trade is a serious threat to their
survival in some countries. It is estimated that over 200 rhinoceroses
have been poached in southern Africa in the past year.
New partnerships for tigers
The Secretary-General of CITES,
and his staff, have been cooperating closely with the World
Bank and conservation bodies to develop an integral approach
for tiger conservation. In a meeting earlier this year between Mr Wijnstekers
and the Bank's President Mr Robert Zoellick, CITES was
asked to elaborate an anti-poaching strategy that contributes
to a long-term collective effort to conserve wild tigers.
Once numbering over 100,000 throughout Asia, tigers are now only
found in small populations and their total numbers in the
wild are thought to be no more than 4,000. There are many more tigers
in captivity than in the wild. Despite decades of effort, and millions
of dollars spent in preservation projects, tigers continue
to move closer to extinction. Whilst loss of habitat and decreasing
numbers of their prey animals have contributed to falling tiger
populations, poaching and illegal trade remain significant threats.
Their skins are sold for decorative purposes, or to be used in traditional
clothing in some parts of the Far east, and their bones and other
body parts are used in some traditional Asian medicines. Tigers
are also killed because they attack humans and livestock.
Domestic trade in tiger parts and derivatives has been banned
across the world since the late 1990s, but some experts are questioning
whether this is the right approach. Since tigers can be bred very
easily in captivity, the argument is made that they should be 'farmed'
to supply a relatively inelastic demand. Others argue that such
trade would facilitate the 'laundering' of tigers poached from the
wild. Designing new conservation strategies for the tiger implies
taking into account many diverse views and interests based upon
biological, socio-economic and cultural factors.
Legal origin of tropical timber
The Committee will consider the
volumes of trade and current verification systems for mahogany and
other tropical timber species. Under the Convention, it is the obligation
of the State of export to determine whether the wood to be exported
was acquired in accordance with national and international laws.
The validity of forestry laws, the role of trade promotion agreements
and the use of innovative tracking systems to distinguish
wood of illegal origin from wood that has been legally obtained
are other elements to be considered.
The Committee will consider a report on the use of the 15 million
USD generated by the sale of 102 tons of stockpiled ivory at the
end of last year. Southern African states are reporting that the
income generated (3 times the annual budget of the Convention) will
be used exclusively for elephant conservation and community development
programmes within or adjacent to the elephant ranges. The average
price paid was USD 157 per kg, which contrasts sharply with the
prices allegedly fetched on the illegal market over the past year
Additionally, the Committee will provide guidance on the interpretation
of the criteria used to list marine and other species under CITES.
This guidance will have a long-standing impact on the proposals
that member countries can submit to adjust the rules governing wildlife
trade. Countries will vote to accept, reject or modify proposals
for amending the CITES rules at the 15th meeting of the Conference
of the Parties to take place in 2010. Arrangements for the 2010
CITES Conference will be also discussed at the present meeting.
The meeting will finally consider the regional reports on the
state of wildlife trade and implementation of CITES rules
in Africa, Asia, Central, South America and the Caribbean, Europe,
North America and Oceania and the results of a workshop on wildlife
policy reviews organized for the 22 member States of the Arab League.
Note to journalists
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