Message for the Cat Summit
CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon
24 September, Jackson Hole, United States
|See the video message.
Today, all wild cats, large or small, are facing various threats to their survival, almost entirely due to what we humans are doing. The populations of wild cats are declining at a disturbing rate at global level. This is because of a range of threats, including wild cats losing their habitat and their prey, conflicts with people, poaching and illegal trade.
By way of example, it is estimated that tiger populations dropped by 95% in the past 100 years, and African lion populations plummeted by 40% in just 20 years.
Losing big cats, the planet’s most majestic predators, has impacts that go way beyond the species themselves. It degrades entire ecosystems and leaves us impoverished in so many ways that cannot be calculated.
We all have a complimentary role to play in raising awareness of the plight of these magnificent species, whether we are activists, conservationists, policy makers, public or political figures. It is only by reaching across multiple constituencies and disciplines that we will succeed.
While wild cats are not found in every continent, demand for these wild animals and their products does come from everywhere. This demand can take many forms, including for decoration, fashion, medicine, pets and trophy hunting. Almost every part of a tiger has a market somewhere, often in hard-to-find illicit markets.
CITES is a legally-binding intergovernmental agreement among 183 Parties, which was adopted on the other side of this great country, Washington, D.C. back in 1973. The United States was the first Party to sign up and it has been a great supporter ever since. The Convention was agreed to ensure that international trade in wildlife does not threaten the survival of the species in the wild. In some cases it bans commercial international trade, in others it strictly regulates such trade to be sure it is legal, sustainable and traceable.
All wild cats have been included in the CITES Appendices since 1977, meaning they come under the CITES trade control regime to ensure that international legal trade does not threaten their survival.
CITES remains today one of the world's most powerful international tools for wildlife conservation, which is reflected in the recent resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly on tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife.
For nearly 20 years, CITES has highlighted the role of organized criminal groups in the illicit trafficking in Asian big cats, which have always been high on the CITES agenda. The fight against all forms of illegal wildlife trade has reached new heights over the past seven years, including through the creation of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) in 2010, a consortium of CITES, INTERPOL, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, World Customs Organisation and the World Bank, to provide coordinated support to countries in the fight against illegal trade in wildlife, including cat species.
Law enforcement, reducing demand for illegally sourced wildlife and improving the livelihoods of rural communities are today the three-pronged approach taken by CITES to tackle illicit trafficking in wildlife.
Sound science and the rule of law are the backbones of CITES. And I do hope that they will also guide the discussions here today. Debate on wildlife conservation, particularly when it comes to such majestic species as the big cats, can generate a strong emotional response.
Now I would like to share two good news stories with you.
Firstly, the CITES Secretariat, as the UN General Assembly designated global facilitator for UN World Wildlife Day, announced earlier this month that the theme of next year’s World Wildlife Day will be ‘big cats’. This will be the very first time that all 9 big cats will collectively be under the spotlight on the most prominent global annual event dedicated to wildlife.
Secondly, I am delighted to announce that the CITES Secretariat will once again team up with Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival to organize a wildlife film festival. We organized an International Elephant Film Festival in 2016, which was a tremendous success with the winners being announced at the UN Headquarters in New York on World Wildlife Day 2016. This time the focus of the film festival will be on, yes, you guessed it, big cats. I hope that wildlife film makers present here and from across the globe will submit their inspirational works to the ‘International Film Festival for Big Cats’.
Thanks for the opportunity to join you today and I wish your meeting every success.