Matt McGrath BBC News 14 Mar 13;
The worst offending countries in the ivory trade have been given a strict deadline to reduce their involvement or face sanctions.
The decision taken at the final meeting of the Cites conference in Bangkok is meant to compel countries like China and Thailand to tougher action.
But some campaigners say Cites is failing to protect elephants and want more urgent action.
Data indicates that 17,000 elephants were killed by poachers in 2011.
This is the most up-to-date information available for areas monitored by Cites.
In its final session here in Bangkok, delegates approved a decision to demand a clear set of targets for reducing the trade in ivory from the countries deemed the worst offenders.
The “gang of eight” countries include the supply states, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, plus the consumer states of China and Thailand. The group also includes three countries - Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines - which are important in the transit of ivory.
The meeting heard that six of the eight countries had now come up with action plans.
The standing committee of Cites also agreed that if the actions described in those plans were not completed then sanctions against the offending country, or countries, could be taken from July 2014.
Secretary General of Cites, John Scanlon, explained that the deadline was real.
“The eight states are prepared to do more and be measured against that," he said. "There is also a recognition that a failure to take action, [may see] the standing committee consider compliance measures. And the ultimate sanction under our convention is a trade suspension."
But the lumping together of the eight countries as worst offenders has upset several of the countries.
Speaking in the final session, Patrick Omondi, the spokesman for Kenya’s delegation, drew a major distinction between the actions being taken by source and consumer countries.
“The demand reductions strategies (in Thailand and China) are totally different from what we are supposed to be doing. Ours depend on resources.”
If you give me screens to screen tonnes of containers we’ll screen all containers passing through Mombasa airport. If you give me 50 more sniffer dogs, we’ll be sniffing every animal part that passes through,” he added.
Thailand’s legal domestic market has been highlighted at this meeting as being a particular source of concern. It is believed that criminal gangs take advantage of this loophole to launder ivory from African elephants into Asia.
At the start of the meeting, the Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra accepted that her country needed to change its laws.
The conference also discussed other measures in the fight against elephant poaching.
The delegates decided to require countries that make seizures of ivory to send samples for DNA analysis to established facilities.
They also asked countries with stockpiles of ivory to give up-to-date information on the scale of these holdings. Many experts fear that ivory from these stockpiles is being diverted into the markets.
Jason Bell from the International Fund for Animal Welfare agreed that these steps would help.
“These developments will not stop the current poaching crisis that is killing up to 25,000 elephants per year, but they will help and they should save some elephants,” he said.
But many campaigners were unimpressed by the Cites stance. A group of 10 conservation and welfare organisations issued a statement saying they were outraged by what they term as “the failure of Cites to stop the poaching”. They want a much tougher approach taken, especially with respect to China.
“China could end the killing by immediately closing its domestic ivory markets and severely punishing citizens engaged in illegal ivory trade," said Steve Itela, director of Youth for Conservation.
“But it chooses ivory trinkets for a luxury market over live elephants,” he added.
Landmark shark ban upheld at conservation meeting
Matt McGrath BBC News 14 Mar 13;
Pro-shark fishing nations have narrowly failed to overturn a landmark protection deal struck at the Cites conservation conference in Bangkok.
Japan and China tried to block trade regulations on three critically endangered shark species by re-opening the debate in the final session.
But delegates refused the request by a wafer-thin majority and the shark ban was upheld.
The decision is being seen as a landmark win for animal conservation.
Campaigners say it is a truly historic day for the species, in which science triumphed over politics.
On Monday, the decision to increase protection for oceanic whitetips, porbeagle and hammerhead sharks had only scraped past the two-thirds majorities required by a handful of votes.
Campaigners had been extremely worried that China and Japan, the main opponents of the measures, would be able to muster the one-third support needed to re-open the debate and block the ban.
In a tense session here in the conference centre, they failed by just over 1%.
UK environment minister David Heath, who had just arrived in Bangkok, told BBC News that this was a great day for the Convention.
"I’m absolutely delighted. I think this is a major step forward today. What we saw was member states across the board say 'we are not going to be diverted from our path'," he said.
The proposals will not ban the fishing of these sharks but it will mean that for the first time, the international trade in them will be regulated.
Similar attempts at previous meetings of Cites had ended in failure. What seems to have made the difference here in Bangkok was the unity of Latin American nations, who all stood behind the proposals.
Hesiquio Benitez from the Mexican delegation told BBC News that this decision was good for sharks and for those communities that make their living from the sea.
"It's important to know that this is not prohibiting trade for domestic markets, it is not against the fisheries communities. It is to have more control, to have better assessments in the populations," he said.
Campaigners who had worked for decades to get these species listed in Appendix II of Cites said it was a landmark day.
The Appendix lists species which may become threatened with extinction unless trade is closely controlled.
"This is an historic day for marine conservation," said Glenn Sant from Traffic International.
"Shark populations are in freefall, but have been thrown a lifeline today - Cites has finally listened to the scientists," he said.
Sharks, rhinos and elephants among wildlife trade summit winners
IUCN 14 Mar 13;
A historic vote to improve the sustainability of the international trade of eight species of sharks and rays that are listed as threatened on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is among the key decisions taken at the CITES wildlife trade summit closing today in Bangkok.
Other decisions taken at the 16th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) include strengthening measures to reduce poaching and illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn, which have increased dramatically in recent years.
“The decisions taken at CITES will help secure the survival of many threatened species in the wild,” says IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “We are delighted to see that the scientific expertise on the biology, conservation and trade of species provided to the Convention by IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and TRAFFIC was key in supporting evidence-based decision making at the Bangkok meeting.”
The conference saw a record number of countries vote to regulate the international trade in the Oceanic Whitetip Shark, three hammerhead species, the Porbeagle shark and the two existing species of manta rays. Parties also voted to ban the international commercial trade in the Critically Endangered Freshwater Sawfish.
The rising demand for shark fins, shark meat, gill plates, and aquarium animals is seriously threatening the survival of these species, according to IUCN. Up to 1.2 million Oceanic Whitetip Sharks, which are fished for their large and distinctive fins, pass through the markets of Southeast Asia every year and over 4,000 manta rays are harpooned for their gills.
“This is a historic step towards better protection of these marine species,” says Nick Dulvy, Co-Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Shark Specialist Group. “Now, after nearly two decades of slow and fragmentary progress, Parties agreed that CITES can complement existing national fisheries measures to ensure that global trade is sustainable and legal.”
To tackle rising levels of poaching of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) and illegal ivory trade, Parties agreed on improved measures for the regulation of the global illegal ivory trade, including the development of country-specific actions. Support was also re-affirmed for the global monitoring systems that underpin decision-making under the Convention, as well as the African Elephant Action Plan.
Conservation of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) was also addressed, including greater recognition of the illegal trade in live elephants and advancing the development of an Asian Elephant Conservation Strategy with all Asian elephant range states by November 2013.
The conference identified significant range, transit and consumer states most affected by illegal rhino horn trade as well as a process of reporting back on specific urgent actions to be taken by those countries.
According to the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group, poaching of African rhinos increased by 43% between 2011 and 2012 and illegal rhino horn trade continues to pose a serious threat to rhinos worldwide.
Delegates in Bangkok also agreed on tighter controls of international trade in timber species in Madagascar, such as rosewood (Dalbergia spp.) and ebony (Disopyros spp.) and adopted measures to reduce the impact of trade on some species of tortoise and freshwater turtles to increase their prospects for survival.
Other decisions taken at the meeting include actions relating to a number of crocodile and snake species, a renewed focus on monitoring of the trade in pangolins and continued commitment to sustainably manage the Humphead Wrasse fishery – an Endangered, coral-dwelling species that was one of the first commercially fished species to be addressed under CITES.
“Some of the decisions made in this meeting will be challenging to implement,” says Richard Jenkins, UK Manager of IUCN’s Global Species Programme. “However, there is real hope now that international trade in sharks and shark products, as well as the other species addressed here, will become more sustainable and their conservation status subsequently improved.”
Governments start to rein in ivory and rhino horn trade, give sharks and timbers better protection at wildlife trade meeting
WWF 14 Mar 13;
Bangkok, Thailand - A critical wildlife trade meeting closed Thursday with decisions from world governments to regulate the international trade in several species of sharks and timber, and to start taking action against countries doing little or nothing to stop the illegal ivory and rhino horn trades.
Countries, on the final day of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), capped the historic two-week meeting by deciding for the first time to initiate a process requiring countries most implicated in illicit ivory trade to clamp down on smuggling.
Governments mandated China, Kenya, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Uganda, Tanzania and Viet Nam – the countries of highest concern in terms of their failure to clamp down on large-scale illegal ivory trade - to submit time-bound plans to deal with the problem in two months, and make progress before the next CITES meeting in summer of 2014.
Under CITES rules, failure by those countries to take action could lead to a compliance process potentially resulting in sanctions being initiated. The treaty allows CITES to issue a recommendation that governments taking part in the treaty stop trading with non-compliant countries in the 35,000 species covered under the convention, from orchids to crocodile skins.
“After years of inaction, governments today put those countries failing to regulate the ivory trade on watch, a move that will help stem the unfettered slaughter of thousands of African elephants,” said Carlos Drews, WWF’s head of delegation at CITES. “The gains made to better protect species here in Bangkok are a major milestone.”
“But the fight to stop wildlife crime is not over,” Drews said. “These countries will now be held accountable to these pledges, and must step up the urgency in dealing with the global poaching crisis that is ravaging our wildlife.”
The decisions to better regulate the ivory trade this week came after Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on the opening day of the meeting announced she would shut down her country’s ivory markets. The prime minister’s pledge came after more than 1.5 million people signed petitions by WWF, Avaaz, and actor and conservationist Leonardo DiCaprio asking her to end the trading of ivory in Thailand.
Governments also extended better protection to threatened rhinos by pledging to work against organized crime syndicates that are smuggling rhino horn through the black market by increasing penalties. In addition, countries adopted a plan to reduce demand for illegal wildlife products like rhino horn, which is believed wrongly to be a miracle cure in Viet Nam.
Nearly 700 South African rhinos were killed by poachers last year, and nearly 150 have died thus far in 2013. Up to 30,000 elephants are lost to poaching every year.
Governments also reaffirmed the stronger protections for three species of hammerhead sharks, in addition to porbeagle sharks, oceanic whitetips, and two species of manta rays. The sharks and manta rays were listed on CITES Appendix II, seeking to regulate their international trade at sustainable levels.
“This is an historic moment, where science has prevailed over politics, as sharks and manta rays are being obliterated from our oceans,” Drews said. “This decision will put a major dent in the uncontrolled trade in shark meat and fins, which is rapidly destroying populations of these precious animals to feed the growing demand for luxury goods.”
“These timely decisions to have trade in sharks and manta rays regulated by CITES show that governments can muster the political will to keep our oceans healthy, securing food and other benefits for generations to come – and we hope to see similar action in the future to protect other commercially exploited and threatened marine species, both at the national and international level,” Drews said.
Negotiators also voted to ramp up trade regulations for several species of rosewood and ebony, which have been subjects of dangerous levels of illegal logging leading to deforestation, especially in Madagascar.
Matt McGrath BBC News 14 Mar 13;