Wednesday, September 28, 2016

CITES Conference Begins in South Africa

Update: The proposals to allow some ivory trade in a misguided effort to reduce the atrocity of African elephant poaching have fortunately been rejected by CITES members meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa. The debate was reportedly heated, and opposition was led by delegates from Burkino Faso, Kenya, Congo and Chad. A mechanism for discussion of regularizing ivory trade was mandated by the Standing Committee in 2007, but according to conservationists those discussions have been "going around in circles" without agreeing on any mechanism. US Person thinks that the only mechanism that will save African elephants is a complete and total ban on world ivory trade, and the deployment of national armies, if necessary, against criminal crime syndicates operating with heavy firepower to protect defenseless elephants.  Costs of such mobilizations should be shared with wealthy member nations.  The mandate to extend the ivory trade discussions failed to pass, but could be renewed at the conference's plenary session.  Observers say that the conference seems to predisposed to vote for more protection for the elephant, not less.

More legal protection is also needed for the Asian pangolin, facing extinction due to human consumption.  According to one conservation organization, pangolins are the most trafficked animal in the world, with over a million taken from the wild in the last decade.  Just last month, 657 dead pangolins were found vacuumed-packed and frozen in five large freezers at an Indonesian home.  Seizures of African pangolin carcasses and remains are also increasing.  Evidence shows that the pangolin trade closely follows the same routes used by ivory traffickers.  The ICUN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) wants eight species of pangolin moved to Appendix I of the CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) treaty, banning all legal trade.  In 2008, only two pangolin species were considered endangered, the Sunda and Chinese pangolin.  Pangolins are acutely sensitive to the stress of captivity and due to their specialized diets generally do not survive well.  But because in some Asian countries their meat is considered a luxury and their scales have 'medicinal' qualities, pangolin populations are dwindling rapidly.  Not good news for an ancient, nocturnal animal whose major defense against predators is to roll up in a scaly ball [photo].

{19.09.16}The major international organization to combat a thriving illegal trade in endangered species, CITES, will hold its annual conference in South Africa. One hundred eighty two nations will gather for twelve days of negotiation and information exchange. This is the first time the conference has been held in Africa. There are many proposals to increase protections for endangered species relatively unfamiliar to animal lovers including the pangolin. {20.02.15, Pangolins Still on Dinner Tables}

However, prominently on the agenda are proposals from Zimbabwe and Namibia to allow a legal trade in African elephant ivory. Both countries believe that by allowing a legitimate and regulated trade, illegal poaching will be reduced.   Many countries delegations oppose these two proposal. TRAFFIC, the international non-profit monitor of international wildlife trade, considers the proposals counterproductive to elephant conservation and would expose elephants to even greater risk of extinction.  Incredibly the European Union is on the fence again about protecting elephants.  In its official statement on the proposals, the Union said it was "premature to agree on a resumption of trade" given the high levels of poaching decimating African elephant populations, but at the same time hedged saying, "Nambia efforts to combat poaching should be recognized and encouraged".  It left unexplained how increasing elephant mortality could encourage a country like Namibia to continue its elephant conservation efforts.  The EU's position is important to the outcome of these proposals since it votes as a bloc and therefore controls 27 votes; two-thirds majority is needed to pass a proposal.  When a member country, Denmark, wanted to continue polar bear hunting in Greenland in 2013 despite the peril global warming poses, all other members of the bloc abstained, and hunting continues today.

Another group of African nations has proposed banning all trade in ivory by placing it in Appendix 1 of the treaty.  Signatory countries agree that trade in animals or their body parts will be allowed only through a system of import/export permits.  Each country must establish an authority to manage permit issuance and study the effects of the trade on protected species. In the United States, the US Fish and Wildlife Service performs both functions.