of the media only;
not an official document.
CITES conference ends with
on wildlife conservation
Tighter trade controls agreed
for mahogany, sharks, sea horses, turtles, parrots
Ivory sales made conditional on improved monitoring of poaching
Santiago, Chile, 15 November 2002 – A two-week conference
of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will conclude today after adopting
decisions that promote wildlife conservation through various strategies
involving strict protection, trade regulation and sustainable
"The key to global wildlife conservation in the 21st century
will be to craft solutions that meet the specific requirements of
each species and its specific circumstances," said Willem Wijnstekers,
Secretary-General of CITES, whose secretariat is administered by
the UN Environment Programme.
"CITES is well-placed to contribute to the conservation of
a wide range of plants and animals through its rigorous system of
trade permits and certificates, its ability to limit commercial
trade when it proves detrimental to a species, and its support to
national conservation and enforcement departments in developing
Among the high-profile decisions taken here was the listing of
mahogany which produces extremely valuable timber –
on CITES’ Appendix II. This listing requires each of the mahogany
range states to ensure that all exports are sustainable and covered
by CITES export permits.
"It is highly significant that after 10 years of discussion,
the Parties to CITES have agreed to regulate the trade in Latin
American mahogany," said Mr. Wijnstekers. "The well-tested
control measures developed under CITES will prove invaluable for
discouraging illegal trade. This decision will also benefit local
and indigenous communities who have lost out to the illegal traders."
Another critical decision reached in the final hours of the meeting
was to list the whale shark and the basking shark on Appendix
II. This is widely considered a landmark agreement as CITES has
not traditionally played an important role in global fisheries.
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, measuring up
to 20 metres in length and weighing up to 34 tonnes. The listing
proposal cited the species’ declining numbers and the role
of continued international trade in whale shark meat, fins, and
liver oil. The basking shark is highly migratory and is hunted
for its meat and fins. Large numbers are also caught and killed
accidentally as by-catch.
The conference also added 26 species of Asian turtles to Appendix
II. Many turtles from South, Southeast and East Asia are traded
in significant quantities for regional food markets, Asian traditional
medicines and international pet markets. Their numbers have been
dwindling in recent years, and the newly listed species are vulnerable
or endangered throughout their ranges. There is extensive evidence
of illegal trade, but turtles are also harvested for subsistence
consumption. Habitat loss is another major threat to their survival.
The trade in seahorses will also now be regulated for the first
time. Seahorse populations seem to have declined dramatically
over recent years owing to commercial trade, by-catch in fisheries,
coastal development, destructive fishing practices and pollution.
To meet the growing demand for traditional medicines, aquarium
pets, souvenirs and curios, at least 20 million seahorses were
captured annually from the wild in the early 1990s, and the trade
is estimated to be growing by 8-10% per year. All 32 seahorse
species will now be listed in Appendix II.
Three rare birds from Central and South America – the yellow-naped
parrot, the yellow-headed parrot and the blue-headed macaw –
have been transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I. This means
that no commercial trade will be permitted. This stricter regulation
reflects concerns that the birds’ numbers have continued to
decline in recent years due to trade and habitat loss.
A number of threatened species in Madagascar – one of the
world’s most species-rich countries – will also receive
stronger protection. They are the flat-tailed tortoise, various
chameleons, a burrowing frog, and the Madagascan orchid.
The meeting also agreed to set a zero quota for commercial trade
in the Black Sea population of bottlenose dolphins, which was
already listed on Appendix II. These dolphins have declined greatly
in recent years due to hunting, pollution and other stresses.
Building on an earlier consensus amongst most African elephant
range states, CITES also agreed on a rigorous regime for controlling
any eventual trade in ivory stockpiles. It conditionally accepted
proposals from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa that they be allowed
to make one-off sales of 20, 10 and 30 tonnes, respectively, of
ivory. The ivory is held in existing legal stocks that have been
collected from elephants that died of natural causes or as a result
of government-regulated problem-animal control.
The agreement requires any future one-off sales to be supervised
through a strict control system. The sales cannot occur before May
2004 to provide time for baseline data to be gathered on population
and poaching levels and for the CITES Secretariat to confirm whether
any potential importing countries can effectively regulate their
domestic ivory markets and are thus eligible for importing the ivory.
The aim of these controls is to prevent any illegal ivory from entering
into legal markets and to discourage an upsurge in poaching.
Another protection built into the system is that trade can be
suspended if the CITES Secretariat and Standing Committee find
either an exporting or an importing country to be in non-compliance.
In addition, trade can be stopped if there is evidence that trade
negatively affects elephant populations in other regions of Africa.
Two monitoring systems that have been established to track the
illegal killing of elephants (Monitoring of Illegal Killing of
Elephants, or MIKE) and illegal sales of ivory (Elephant Trade
Information System, or ETIS) will be critical to ensuring that
countries relying on tourism are not harmed by ivory sales from
countries that also rely on trade.
Still other decisions seek to strengthen domestic conservation
of threatened or endangered species already controlled by CITES,
including bears, the tiger, sturgeon, and the Tibetan antelope.
The 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention
was held from 4 – 15 November. It was attended by some 1,200
participants from 141 governments as well as numerous observer organizations.
CoP13 will be held at the end of 2004 or in the first half of 2005