CITES meeting to tackle massive smuggling of elephant ivory and rhino horn

For use of the media only;
not an official document.

Asian snakes, big cats, great apes, marine species, parrots, frogs and a myriad of plants
will also be discussed at the 62nd meeting of its Standing Committee

Geneva, 24 July 2012 – The conservation and management priorities for the effective regulation of trade in wild animals and plants during the triennium 2013 to 2016 is taking centre stage at the 62nd meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is being held in Geneva from 23 to 27 July. Some 350 participants from all over the world are attending, including observers from Parties, intergovernmental bodies, the private sector and non-governmental organizations specialized in wildlife conservation and international trade.

The CITES Standing Committee oversees the implementation of rules for the international trade in protected wildlife on behalf of the Conference of the 175 CITES member States. This week, it will decide on the agenda of the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which will take place in Bangkok in March 2013. Among the high priority issues for discussion are elephant issues, including rising levels in the illegal killing of elephants and ivory smuggling, and a decision-making mechanism for a process of trade in ivory.

The Committee will also analyse the drivers behind the exploding demand in rhino horn;review the progress made in the implementation of measures to reduce overexploitation of freshwater turtles and tortoises as well as some frogs and plants from Madagascar; and discuss the sourcing of Asian snakes used in the leather industry. Tiger conservation initiatives and illegal trade in great apes are also on the agenda.

“Recognition of the importance of CITES at Rio+20 demonstrates the value of the work carried out by thousands of wildlife officers everyday to conserve and use sustainably CITES-listed species and their habitats. The implementation challenges are considerable but we have scaled up our efforts in enforcement, law, science and financing. CITES has been recognized at the highest political level, along with its contribution to sustainable development. This will in turn help to attract the level of financial resources that CITES Parties deserve and need to support the national implementation of their commitments,” said CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon.

“With elephant and rhino poaching and smuggling levels being the worst in a decade, it is clear that strong additional measures are required. 2013 will be a critical year to adopt enhanced measures to protect the planet’s biodiversity and ensure effective implementation on the ground. The present meeting will help set the priorities and to ensure the long-term survival of key species we would like to leave to future generations,” said the Chairman of the Committee, Mr Øysten Størkersen.

Elephant conservation issues

The Committee will consider a new report that analyses data from four different authoritative sources: the CITES programme on Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), IUCN, the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) managed by TRAFFIC, and the CITES trade database managed by the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).

These authoritative sources of information have shown a very close correspondence between trends in elephant poaching and trends in large-scale ivory seizures, detecting essentially the same patterns at different points in the illegal ivory trade chain. Recommendations under consideration to improve the situation include: urgently implementing the African elephant action plan; improving controls for domestic ivory markets; ensuring stronger collaboration between African and Asian countries to combat ivory smuggling; and undertaking international enforcement actions coordinated by the International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (ICCWC).

The report on Elephant conservation, illegal killing and ivory trade is available at: /eng/com/sc/62/E62-46-01.pdf

The committee will also discuss a study on a Decision-making mechanisms and necessary conditionsfor a future trade in African Elephant Ivory available at: /eng/com/sc/62/E62-46-04-A.pdf


The Committee will examine a report on the traditional uses of rhino horn. The report focuses on five historical consumer markets where both domestic and international trade are prohibited: China, Taiwan (Province of China), Japan, the Republic of Korea and Viet Nam. According to the report, rarity would seem to be the main factor, more than any intrinsic value or properties of the horn itself, coupled with rising wealth in East and Southeast Asia, which is creating a market bubble for rhino horn.

The South African Government has reported that a total of 281 rhino were illegally killed on its territory during the first six months of 2012, compared to 174 in the same period last year. Poaching levels have seen dramatic increases in recent years: 13 rhinos poached in 2007, 83 in 2008, 122 in 2009, 330 in 2010, 448 in 2011. A total of 176 people have been arrested in South Africa since January 2012, 153 of them alleged poachers, and the others couriers, buyers or exporters.

The UNTV/CITES documentary Rhinos under threat,which illustrates this problematic issue, will be screened on Tuesday 24 July at 5:40 p.m. Geneva time. The film investigates what is driving the demand for rhino horn in Asia and the powerful measures being taken by national authorities to fight this crime. The film also shows the need for a tough coordinated enforcement response at the national and international levels – from work in the field, to the use of DNA techniques, effective prosecutions and the need for severe penalties. It also shows the impacts that poaching are having on local communities.

Review of Significant Trade

The Committee will examine the export levels for a myriad of animals and plants. This ‘Review of Significant Trade’ is a unique compliance mechanism developed by CITES to verify whether species are traded at sustainable levels. Among the cases under review are encouraging developments regarding the management of tortoises in Uzbekistan, and amphibians and plants in Madagascar. Other cases concern, for instance, the African grey parrot, turtles and tortoises in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Additionally, the Committee will: analyse enforcement deficiencies in several countries and consider appropriate compliance measures; consider innovative financing solutions, including access to GEF funding and the development of a private equity fund; review implementation of the Convention for captive-breeding and ranching operations (including Nile crocodiles in Madagascar and birds from the Solomon Islands); discuss proposals for a uniform interpretation and application of the term ‘introduction from the sea’; evaluate the status of national laws for the implementation of CITES; and, review Parties’ submission of national reports on CITES trade.

Note to journalists: For more information, contact Juan Carlos Vasquez at +41 22 917 8156 or 41 79 5522732 or juan.vasquez [at]

For official documents and other information, see: /eng/com/sc/62/index.php

The list of the Committee members can be found at: /eng/com/sc/member.php


With 175 Member States, CITES remains one of the world's most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora. Thousands of species are internationally traded and used by people in their daily lives for food, housing, health care, ecotourism, cosmetics or fashion.

CITES regulates international trade in close to 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment. The CITES Permit System seeks to ensure that international trade in listed species is sustainable, legal and traceable.

CITES was adopted in Washington D.C. on 3 March 1973. The 40th anniversary of the Convention will be celebrated in March 2013 which coincides with the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 3 to 15 March 2013.

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