Seven nations face CITES sanctions over endangered species

Associated Press Google News 27 Jul 12;

GENEVA (AP) — Seven nations may lose their ability to legally trade tens of thousands of wildlife species after U.N. conservation delegates agreed Thursday to penalize them for lacking tough regulations or failing to report on their wildlife trade.

The suspensions against the seven nations — Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Paraguay, Nepal, Rwanda, Solomon Islands and Syria — were approved by consensus among the delegates and would take effect Oct. 1.

They would prevent the countries from legally trading in any of the 35,000 species regulated by the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, said Juan Carlos Vasquez, a spokesman for the U.N. office that administers the treaty.

Delegations to the weeklong meeting of CITES, a treaty overseen by the U.N. Environment Program in Geneva, agreed to trade suspensions against Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Paraguay and Rwanda based on their lack of national laws for regulating the lucrative wildlife trade.

The Geneva meeting's attendees also agreed to trade suspensions against Guinea-Bissau, Nepal, Rwanda, Solomon Islands and Syria based on their failure to adequately report what they are doing to regulate wildlife trade, as they are required to do under the CITES treaty.

To avoid the sanctions, and the prospect of losing millions of dollars in commerce, the seven must now draw up the required legislation or submit their missing annual reports to CITES by Oct. 1.

According to CITES, about 97 percent of the species it regulates are commercially traded for food, fuel, forest products, building materials, clothing, ornaments, health care, religious items, collections, trophy hunting and other sport. The other 3 percent are generally prohibited.

CITES estimates the regulated global wildlife trade is between $350 million and $530 million a year, or almost $2.2 billion over the five years from 2006 to 2010. During that time, logging of big leaf mahogany alone accounted for $168 million in trade. By volume, American black bears, South American grey foxes, Senegal parrots and Malaysian box turtles were among the most traded.

TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, estimates that commercial trade in wildlife has risen sharply from around $160 billion a year in the early 1990s. But the multibillion-dollar illegal trade in wildlife is a growing problem, and environmentalists say a big reason is nations' failure to enact stiff penalties for traffickers or enforce wildlife laws already on the books.

The delegates are expected to consider on Friday a more controversial topic: a call to resume the legal ivory trade as a way to stop the recent rise in elephant poaching in Africa.

That proposal, put forward in a CITES-commissioned report, would set up a centralized system to allow for the sale of ivory from elephants that either died naturally or as a result of trophy hunting, or were considered a threat or culled for ecological reasons.

It is the first time such a proposal has been made since a global ban on ivory went into effect in 1989. That ban mostly halted widespread poaching, but in the past decade the problem has worsened owing mainly to an Asian appetite for ivory chopsticks, statues and jewelry.

The rise in rhino poaching also is on the agenda.

Experts rank wildlife smuggling among the top aims of criminal networks, along with drugs and human trafficking. CITES says wildlife crime remains poorly studied, but it says international estimates of the scale of illegal wildlife trade range from between $16 billion and $27 billion a year.

Tiger parts, elephant ivory, rhino horn and exotic birds and reptiles are among the most trafficked items. To fight it, CITES has formed a consortium with Interpol, the U.N. office on drugs and crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization.

Casey reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

CITES bares teeth, but can it bite?
WWF 27 Jul 12;

Geneva - A week’s long meeting of the CITES Standing Committee ended today. The committee governs the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) between full-scale meetings of the Conference of the Parties.

The decisions taken are racheting up pressure on a number of countries to be held accountable over their failure to deal with rampant poaching and illegal trade, but no sanctions or punitive measures were agreed.
Earlier this week WWF reported that many countries are failing to protect threatened species like rhinos, tigers and elephants.

African countries identified as the main sources of illegal ivory in trade, plus Asian and East African transit countries and the two countries with the largest illegal ivory consumer markets—China and Thailand—were given until the end of the year by the Standing Committee to provide written reports of what progress they have made in tackling the illicit trade.

Failure to do so could ultimately result in a suspension of all trade in CITES-listed species with the country concerned, but the CITES Parties have so far avoided taking such action.

Thailand, for example, had already been called upon to submit such a report, and did so at this meeting. WWF and TRAFFIC considered their report vague and non-committal, and joined others in calling for a timetable for the legislative changes needed to close a gaping loophole that allows ivory from illegal sources to be laundered into the Thai marketplace.

“With elephant poaching and illegal trade in ivory reaching new heights, we should not be shy about using CITES trade suspensions as an international tool to prevent a full-blown elephant crisis,” said Tom Milliken, who co-authored the report on the status of elephants to the meeting.

The report highlighted that up to 23% of Central Africa's elephant populations are being killed each year. This was further evidenced by the massacre of more than 30 elephants in Chad whilst the CITES meeting was taking place. Meanwhile, Central African governments revealed a new plan at the meeting to combat poaching and illegal trade in the region.

“The new Central African plan is warmly welcomed, but it is critical that the plan is rapidly implemented because time is running out for the elephants of this region,” said Colman O Criodain, WWF’s wildlife trade specialist.

At a side-event on the forthcoming on-line version of the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), managed by TRAFFIC on behalf of the CITES Parties, was demonstrated. The new internet-based system provides much improved facilities for data collection and analysis, and will be formally launched later this year.

The country at the centre of the rising demand for illegal rhino horn—Viet Nam—was similarly instructed to report on what progress it had made in curbing rhino horn demand, and has until 3 September to report. In particular, Viet Nam will need to explain what measures have been implemented to prevent illegal import and trade in rhino horn, how the black market in rhino horn is being targeted in the country, and what is being done to discourage rhino horn use.

“Viet Nam is the principal driver of rhino horn trafficking, and as such, has an international obligation to curb the demand for horn, implement national trade controls and help end rhino poaching in Africa,” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s rhino expert.

The Standing Committee also instructed CITES’ Rhino Working Group to focus on actions needed to reduce demand for rhino horn and was tasked with developing a demand reduction strategy, taking into account the outputs of the experts’ meeting convened by TRAFFIC and WWF in November last year on messaging to reduce consumer demand for tigers and other endangered wildlife species.

For tigers, the spotlight fell on the Global Tiger Recovery Programme agreed in St Petersburg in November 2010. A number of tiger range States had failed to report to the committee, even though obliged to do so.
“It’s disappointing that some of the countries fortunate enough still to be home to wild tigers simply aren’t adequately motivated to let others know what they are doing to protect them,” said O Criodain.

The illegal trade in tiger parts was also on the agenda, with TRAFFIC highlighting its work on reducing demand for tiger products, while China reaffirmed its commitment to the ban on trade in tiger parts, but made no firm statements about phasing out existing tiger farms.

After a number of years in the spotlight, the Solomon Islands finally announced a ban on the manifestly unsustainable trade in live dolphins for trade. Its announcement came hot on the heels of TRAFFIC revelations into the use of alleged “captive-breeding” to circumvent CITES regulations on trade in wild birds from the island archipelago.

Finally, an important breakthrough is on the cards over how CITES deals with species caught on the high seas. Debate has raged for almost 20 years over when so-called “Introduction from the Sea” actually takes place and therefore which regulatory authority should be involved. Despite misgivings expressed in some quarters, there is now an agreed text that needs to be endorsed at the next full Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP16), which takes place in March 2013, in Bangkok, Thailand.