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CITES puts ivory sales on hold
Geneva, 5 October 2006 – The Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has
decided not to allow exports of elephant ivory from Botswana (20
tonnes of ivory), Namibia (10 tonnes) and South Africa (30 tonnes)
to proceed at this time.
The sales were agreed in principle in 2002. However, they were
made conditional on the ability of the Monitoring of Illegal Killing
of Elephants (MIKE) system to establish up-to-date and comprehensive
baseline data on elephant poaching and population levels.
Today’s meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (which
oversees the implementation of CITES decisions in between the
major conferences) determined that this condition has not yet
been satisfied and the sales may not go forward.
This issue will now be considered at the next meeting of the
Standing Committee, which will take place in late May 2007 in
The Hague, The Netherlands.
CITES banned the international commercial ivory trade in 1989.
Then, in 1997, recognizing that some southern African elephant
populations are healthy and well managed, it permitted Botswana,
Namibia and Zimbabwe to make a one-time sale of ivory to Japan
totalling 50 tonnes (the sales took place in 1999 and earned some
In 2004, requests by several southern African states for annual
ivory quotas were not accepted by the Conference of the Parties
(COP) to the Convention. All legal sales of ivory derive from
existing stocks gathered from elephants that have died as a result
of natural causes or culling. Today the elephant populations of
southern Africa are listed on Appendix II of the Convention (which
manages trade through a permit system, although elephants have
zero quotas) while most other elephant populations are listed
in Appendix I (which forbids all commercial trade).
The long-running global debate over elephants has focused on
the benefits that income from ivory sales may bring to conservation
and to local communities living side by side with large and often
dangerous animals versus concerns that such sales may increase
poaching. The baseline data will make it possible to determine
objectively what impact future ivory sales may have on elephant
populations and poaching.
Consisting of 15 countries representing all regions of the world,
the Standing Committee is meeting in Geneva from 2 to 6 October
(the meeting is not open to the press). The 169 country members
to CITES will next meet at the ‘14th Meeting of the Conference
of the Parties (COP 14)’, to be held in The Hague, the Netherlands,
from 3 to 15 June 2007. The CITES Secretariat is administered
by the United Nations Environment Programme.
Note to journalists: See Standing Committee
meeting Document 26.2 at www.cites.org/eng/com/sc/54/index.shtml
and the 2002 agreement on ivory at www.cites.org/eng/cop/12/Adopted_Amendments.pdf
(pages 5 to 8). For more information please contact Michael Williams
at +41 22 917 8242, +41 79 409 1528 (cell) or Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org,
or Juan Carlos Vasquez at +41 22 917 8156 or email@example.com.
Backgrounder: Understanding CITES
Thousands of species around the world are endangered or at risk
as a result of human activities such as habitat destruction, over-harvesting
and pollution. CITES was adopted in 1973 to address the threat
posed by just one of these activities: unsustainable international
trade. With some 166 Parties, CITES is one of the world's most
important agreements on species conservation and the non-detrimental
use of wildlife.
Even after commercial fishing and the timber industry are set
aside, the international trade in wildlife is big business, estimated
to be worth billions of dollars annually and to involve more than
350 million plant and animal specimens every year. Unregulated
international trade can push threatened and endangered species
over the brink, especially when combined with habitat loss and
Three ways to regulate
CITES provides three regulatory options in the form of Appendices.
Animals and plants listed under Appendix I are excluded from international
commercial trade except in very special circumstances. Appendix
I contains almost 600 animal species and a little more than 300
plant species, including all the great apes; various big cats
such as cheetahs, the snow leopard and the tiger; numerous birds
of prey, cranes, and pheasants; all sea turtles; many species
of crocodiles, tortoises and snakes; and some cacti and orchids.
Commercial international trade is permitted for species listed
in Appendix II, but it is strictly controlled on the basis of
CITES permits. This Appendix II covers over 4,100 animal species
and 28,000 plant species, including all those primates, cats,
cetaceans, parrots, crocodiles and orchids not listed in Appendix
Finally, Appendix III includes species that are protected within
the borders of a member country. An Appendix III listing allows
a country to call on others to help it regulate trade in the listed
species. This Appendix lists over 290 species.
CITES, then, does much more than regulate trade in large charismatic
mammals. It sets up a green certification system for non-detrimental
wildlife trade (based on CITES permits and certificates), combats
illegal trade and related wildlife offences, promotes international
cooperation, and helps to establish management plans so that range
States can monitor and sustainably manage CITES-listed species.
CITES requires each member government to adopt the necessary
national legislation and officially designate a Management Authority
that issues trade permits. Governments must also designate a Scientific
Authority to provide scientific advice on imports and exports.
These national authorities are responsible for implementing CITES
in close cooperation with Customs, wildlife enforcement, police
or similar agencies.
As the impact of trade on a population or a species increases
or decreases, the species can be added to the CITES Appendices,
removed from them, or transferred from one Appendix to another.
These decisions are to be based on the best biological information
available and an analysis of how different types of protection
can affect specific populations.
It is worth noting that when a species is transferred from Appendix
I to Appendix II, its protection has not necessarily been ‘downgraded’.
Rather, it can be a sign of success that a species’ population
has grown to the point where well-regulated trade may be possible.
In addition, by allowing a species to be commercially traded at
sustainable levels, an Appendix-II listing can actually improve
protection by giving local people a greater stake in the species’
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