CITES meeting to consider ivory and timber trade

Updated on 12 January 2021

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CITES meeting to consider ivory and timber trade

Tiger farms and illegal trade in rhinos also top on the agenda

Geneva, 14 July 2008 – Elephants, mahogany, rhinos and tigers will take centre stage at the 57th 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 this week (from 14 to 18 July). Some 300 participants from all over the world are expected to attend, including observers from Parties, intergovernmental bodies, business community and non-governmental organizations specialized in wildlife conservation and international trade.

The CITES Standing Committee oversees the implementation of rules for the international wildlife trade when the Conference of the 173 CITES member States is not in session. Among other issues, the Committee will consider the quantities of raw ivory stockpiled in four Southern African countries approved for export and the importing countries that are allowed to buy it. It will also discuss the farming of tigers in Asia, the poaching of rhinos for use in traditional medicine, the legal origin of mahogany harvested in the Amazon basin and the levels of trade of African cherry (Prunus africana) used in the treatment of prostate cancer.

“Innovative and courageous solutions are required to correct the spiral of species decline,” said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers. “This has been recognized this week by the leaders of the “G8” group of countries, who expressed their commitment to promote a co-benefits approach that will lead to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, while reducing illicit trade in wildlife, and to improve the interface between research activities and the public and policy makers,” he added.

"Since decisions adopted will have a direct impact on the status of several charismatic species, their ecosystems and the livelihoods of the rural poor living with them, the solutions should be based on the best evidence available", added the Chairman of the Committee, Ambassador Cristian Maquieira from Chile.

One-off sales of ivory

Under an agreement reached in The Hague in 2007, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were authorized to make a single sale of all government-owned stocks of ivory that have been registered by 31 January 2007. The following quantities of raw ivory have been declared for sale by these countries: Botswana: 43,682.91 kg, Namibia: 9,209.68 kg, South Africa: 51,121.8 kg, and Zimbabwe: 3,755.55 kg. This makes a total of some 108 tons.

Between March and April 2008, the CITES Secretariat conducted missions to these four countries and verified that the declared ivory stocks had been properly registered by 31 January 2007, that they were of legal origin and that the weights declared were within the acceptable range of usual variation. In each case, the findings of the audits were satisfactory.

Each sale is to consist of a single shipment per destination and may only go to countries whose internal controls on ivory sales have been verified as being sufficient by the CITES Secretariat. Having reviewed China’s ivory controls and markets on a number of occasions, CITES verifications determined that China's enforcement score was 63 % in 2008 compared to 6 % in 2002 when the initial one-off sale was authorized. In spite of remaining a potential destination for illegal ivory, like other countries, China has now reached the required verification standards established by CITES for this one-off sale and could therefore be designated as a trading partner.

The 2007 African agreement stipulates that 'after these shipments have been completed' no new proposals for further sales from these four countries are to be considered by CITES during a "resting period" of nine years that will commence as soon as the new sales have been completed.

Tiger farms, legal origin of mahogany and rhinoceroses

The Committee will also consider the controversial subject of tiger farming. At its meeting in The Hague, CITES decided that captive populations should be restricted to numbers that would support wild tiger conservation and that tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts or derivatives. The Committee has been asked to determine how to monitor compliance with that decision and to seek reports from those countries that have tiger breeding facilities. It will also hear of work that is being undertaken to combat the continuing problems of illegal trade in tiger skins and bones and in those of other big cats, such as leopards.

The Committee will also be reviewing and discussing the levels of exports of mahogany from the Amazon basin and the legal origin of that timber. The current timber verification systems are considered insufficient and do not offer the required credibility. New systems are under development to ensure that harvest is sustainable and trade is legal.

Rhinos, particularly populations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Mozambique, Nepal, South Africa and Zimbabwe, are all suffering from poaching. The situation is so critical in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that scientists fear the population may have been wiped out. Illegal trade in rhinoceros horn appears to be a cause of major concern. It includes fraudulent applications for CITES documents, abuse of legal trophy hunting and the use of couriers smuggling horns from southern Africa to Far East Asia. The CITES Secretariat will seek the Committee's endorsement for it to convene a multi-national task force to address this problem.

Additionally the Committee will: identify indicators for a new strategic vision for the CITES Convention; consider the results of four wildlife policy reviews in Madagascar, Nicaragua, Uganda and Viet Nam; and study the relationship between the implementation of wildlife measures and the livelihoods of the rural poor. Finally, it will consider e-permitting systems to allow more efficient regulation of international wildlife trade.

Note to journalistes: For more information, contact Juan Carlos Vasquez à +41 22 917 8156 or 41793786540 ou [email protected]

See also:

Official documents and other information of the 57th meeting of the Standing Committee
The list of members of the Standing Committee

Photos from ivory verification missions are available upon request.

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