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CITES to decide wildlife trade rules and promote conservation
Agenda includes turtles, elephants, whales,
seahorses, vicuñas, and mahogany
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Santiago, October 2002 - Decisions affecting the survival of dozens of wild plant and animal species will be adopted at a major conference here of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The conference, which runs from 3 to 15 November, will consider 59 proposals to amend the lists of species subject to trade controls. The proposals range from the highly charismatic minke whale and African elephant, to endangered Asian freshwater turtles and Latin American parrots, to commercially valuable bigleaf mahogany and Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass).
"CITES seeks to promote a healthier and more sustainable relationship between people and wildlife," said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers. "The Santiago conference is an opportunity to ensure that trade does no harm to plant and animal species. It will also address national efforts to conserve species that are not traded because they have become threatened or endangered," he said.
"Protecting wildlife is vital to the broader goal of making environmental conservation and poverty reduction mutually supportive," said Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, which administers the CITES Secretariat. "Its well-honed regulations and practical programmes put CITES on the front line of sustainable development."
One group of proposals addresses Asia's declining freshwater turtles, which are collected and traded as pets, food, and medicinal preparations in Asia. The number of turtles on sale at Chinese food markets alone is estimated between 12 and 20 million specimens annually, most of them originating from the wild. Experts fear that many Asian turtle species will soon face extinction. The conference will consider proposals for introducing trade controls on 26 species of freshwater turtles.
Another high-profile item is the African elephant. After an eight-year ban on ivory sales, in 1997 CITES agreed to allow three African countries - Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe -to make one-time sales from their existing legal stocks of raw ivory. The ivory - which weighed 49,574 kg and represented 5,446 tusks - was sold to Japan in 1999 and earned some USD5 million. The funds were used for elephant conservation activities in the three range States.
This year, the three countries plus South Africa and Zambia are proposing one-off sales of existing ivory stocks to be followed later by annual quotas. The proposals are for a first sale of 20,000 kg and an annual quota of 4,000 kg for Botswana, 10,000 kg and 2,000 kg respectively for Namibia, 30,000 and 2,000 for South Africa and 10,000 and 5,000 for Zimbabwe. Zambia is proposing a one-off sale of 17,000 kg. A proposal from India and Kenya, on the other hand, argues that further ivory sales from African elephants should be clearly prohibited as a precautionary measure for reducing future threats to the elephant.
Meanwhile, Japan is seeking to open up trade in most northern hemisphere populations of minke whale and a Pacific population of Bryde's whale. Its proposals stress the use of national legislation and DNA identification of individual whales to monitor catches and trade. Similar proposals were presented without success at the most recent CITES conferences in 1997 and 2000. This year's debate is likely to involve issues related to science, sustainable use, possible enforcement problems, and the International Whaling Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling.
Other proposals emphasize the sustainable use of wildlife. Sustainable use can build support for conservation among local communities while directly raising funds for protecting endangered species. For this reason, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile want to expand their ability to sell the fine silky wool sheared from live vicuña to include a number of additional vicuña populations.
The meeting will also review measures for improving protection for highly endangered species already protected by CITES regulations, including rhinoceroses, bears, the tiger, musk deer, sturgeons, the Tibetan antelope and leopards.
CITES was adopted in 1973 in Washington D.C. and will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year on 3 March 2003.
Note to journalists:
For media inquiries from 23 October, please contact Juan Carlos Vasquez or Michael Williams in Santiago at +56-2-2745810. For media inquiries before that date please contact in Geneva Juan Carlos Vasquez at +41-22-917-8156 or email@example.com, or Michael Williams at +41-22-9178242/244/196, +41-79-409-1528 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org. Official documents for the meeting, the Convention itself, and the Appendices with their complete listings are posted on the Internet at www.cites.org.
Press accreditation is now open. For more information and to submit the on-line form, see www.cites.org. Press working facilities will be available at the conference, and a large number of press conferences will be organized by both governments and organizations during the meeting.
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