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Wildlife treaty comes of age
CITES celebrates 30 years
Geneva, 30 June 2005 – Thirty years ago tomorrow,
on 1 July 1975, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) entered into force with
a challenging mission: to bring under regulation the international
trade in certain wild animal and plant species so that such trade
does not threaten their survival.
“During the past three decades, CITES has proved highly
effective in ensuring that human needs remain compatible with
wildlife conservation. It has enabled local communities to benefit
from the sustainable use of wildlife, and it has protected animal
and plant species that are threatened or endangered by international
trade,” said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers.
“I am confident that CITES will build on these successes
for many more years to come and will contribute to alleviating
poverty and stopping the decline in global biodiversity –
key elements of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals,”
Expanding human populations, economic development, poverty and
war are testing the ability of many kinds of animals and plants
to survive the modern world. Globalization is also adding to the
pressure as higher levels of international trade and income expand
the demand for wildlife and wildlife products. CITES seeks to
ease this pressure by supporting national conservation efforts
and ensuring that the international trade in wildlife is sustainable.
While preventing more species from becoming threatened by trade,
CITES has also enabled the recovery of species that were already
endangered. Examples of crises transformed into success stories
include the South American vicuña (a small member of the
camel family) and the Nile crocodile. The survival of these two
species was assured when CITES turned their wool and skins, respectively,
into valuable and sustainably managed commodities of benefit to
CITES’ experience has shown that poor people in rural areas
who share the environment with wild animals and plants need to
receive a major share of the economic benefits derived from their
use. In cases where this does not happen, wildlife conservation
is often undermined when people pursue economic benefits in an
environmentally unsustainable manner, for example by converting
undeveloped land to agiculture, poaching wildlife and smuggling
Thanks to the effective implementation of CITES by those who
harvest, produce, trade, transport, buy and regulate the wildlife
species covered by the Convention, new emergency listings of species
have become increasingly rare. Moreover, no CITES-listed species
has ever become extinct as a result of trade.
In recent years, CITES’ effectiveness in managing trade
in wildlife has been applied to some fish and timber species of
high commercial value that were once considered beyond the limits
of the Convention. This trend reflects the growing conviction
of many governments that CITES can help to reverse the precarious
situation of high-value species and ensure a sustainable supply.
To maintain momentum as it enters its fourth decade, CITES will
need to become more effective in boosting national capacities
for conserving wildlife and managing sustainable trade. Regulating
wildlife trade at the national level cannot work effectively without
an integrated approach incorporating sound wildlife policies,
a solid scientific basis and adequate enforcement measures. To
this end, national CITES authorities and enforcement agencies
need more political support, appropriate remuneration, focused
training and proper equipment.
“While human pressure on the natural environment will only
grow in the years to come, the history of CITES confirms that
it is possible to reconcile the needs of human beings and wildlife,”
said Mr Wijnstekers. “I am confident that CITES will build
on its past achievements to make a significant contribution to
the environment and human well-being in the 21st century.”
The CITES secretariat is administered by the United Nations Environment
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