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African Elephant Fund launched at CITES meeting
Experts also urged innovative approaches to combat illegal trade in rhino horns
Geneva, 19 August 2011 – The 61st meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) concluded here today with important decisions made to ensure the survival of elephants, rhinos, snakes and other species. The meeting was attended by some 300 participants from all over the world, including observers from Parties, intergovernmental bodies, business community and non-governmental organizations specialized in wildlife conservation and international trade.
A multi-donor technical trust for the implementation of an African Elephant Action Plan was launched this week after full consultation and all formalities were concluded early in the year. The Netherlands, Germany, France have already contributed to the new fund and other potential donors were encouraged to join them.
“We expect that donors will hear the urgent needs of Africa and support the implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan,” said CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon. “The target is to raise USD 100 million over the next three years to enhance law enforcement capacity and secure the long term survival of African elephant populations”, he added.
The Committee considered recent findings concerning African and Asian elephants, poaching levels and illegal trade in ivory in a closed session. Its members discussed a public report prepared by the CITES programme for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), IUCN and TRAFFIC indicating that 2010 had seen the highest levels of elephant poaching since 2002, with Central Africa being of highest concern. The analysis has also found that poverty and poor governance are driving elephant poaching, together with increasing demand in China. The Committee has requested that Thailand report at the next meeting on its progress in regulating domestic trade in ivory and combating illegal trade. Finally, suspensions will remain in place for Gabon and Somalia.
The committee also recognized rhino poaching and illegal trade in their horns as a major challenge that requires innovative approaches, one delegation describing the situation "as almost out of control". An expert group will scrutinize the progress made by range States and importing countries on this issue. According to a report submitted by the South African Government, a total of 174 rhino have been illegally killed in that country alone during the first six months of 2011. Poaching levels in South Africa have risen dramatically in recent years: 13 rhinos poached in 2007, 83 in 2008, 122 in 2009 and 330 in 2010. A total of 122 suspected rhino poachers have been arrested in South Africa since January 2011, 60 of them in the Kruger National Park, which is the protected area that has suffered the biggest losses.
All populations of Rhinoceroses are suffering from poaching, particularly those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Mozambique, Nepal, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Illegal trade in rhinoceros horn appears to be the drive behind this poaching and relies on fraudulent applications for CITES documents, abuse of legal trophy hunting and the use of couriers smuggling horns from southern Africa to Far East Asia.
The Committee has also reviewed progress made by Peru regarding the origin of mahogany from the Amazon basin. It has recognized the efforts deployed by that country to establish reliable timber verification systems to ensure that harvest is sustainable and trade legal. Guatemala, Bolivia and Mexico are the three major exporters of the precious timber. Bolivia announced during the meeting that had decided a voluntary moratorium of exports, starting during the second half of 2011.
The Committee also considered new rules for introducing marine species from international waters, studied the relationship between the implementation of wildlife measures and the livelihoods of the rural poor, and considered e-permitting systems as the way forward to allow more efficient regulation of international wildlife trade.
The CITES Standing Committee oversees the implementation of rules for the international trade in over 34,000 species between the triennial meetings of the 175 CITES member States.
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