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Rhino and elephant poaching, timber trade, bushmeat and livelihoods also on the agenda

Geneva, 16 August 2011 – The search for innovative financial solutions to help countries regulate wildlife trade effectively will take centre stage at the 61st meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to be held in Geneva this week (from 15 to 19 August). Some 300 participants from all over the world, including observers from Parties, intergovernmental bodies, business community and specialized non-governmental organizations are attending the meeting.

Top: (left to right) Mr John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General, Mr Øystein Størkersen, CITES Standing Committee Chair, and Mr Jonathan Barzdo, CITES Secretariat
Bottom: Venue of the plenary session of SC61
(click to enlarge the photo)

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. The top issues on the agenda include new financial mechanisms, elephant conservation, measures to reduce current levels of rhino poaching, tigers and other big cats, mahogany and other timber species, sturgeon and caviar trade, and the sourcing of reptile skins used in the leather industry.

“Innovative financial solutions are required to achieve the huge conservation task before us,” said CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon. “With nearly seven billion people consuming biodiversity every day in the form of medicines, food, clothes, furniture, perfumes or luxury goods, a robust CITES is more relevant and needed today than ever. Enhanced cooperation with other organizations and initiatives is crucial to bridge the financial gap between the cost to implement CITES regulations effectively, the resources currently allocated and the services provided to stakeholders”, he added.

“CITES is one of the most important nature conservation instruments in the world because it works in a very focused and operational context at the country level. But its operational nature can also result in CITES not connecting to other related events, and processes and slipping off the higher level political radar screen, which in turn impacts negatively on the flow of resources to the Convention. The implementation challenges are vast and now is the time to ensure CITES is on the higher-level political agenda and attracts the level of resources it deserves and needs", added the new Chair of the Committee, Mr Oystein Storkersen from Norway.

Elephant conservation

The Committee will consider recent findings concerning African and Asian elephants, poaching levels and illegal trade in ivory. A report prepared by the CITES programme for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) indicates that 2010 has seen the highest levels of elephant poaching since 2002, with Central Africa being of highest concern. The MIKE analysis also find that poverty and poor governance are the most important influence on elephant poaching together with patterns of consumption in China. The Committee will consider targeted measures for tightening ivory trade controls all along the illegal trade chain in key African and Asian countries, and for raising awareness in Asian markets and transit countries.

Another important measure than can assist in conserving elephants is the recent creation of an ‘African Elephant Fund’ to finance a comprehensive African elephant action plan and a proposal for the creation of an expert committee on elephants.

Rhinoceroses

The Committee will examine rhino poaching and illegal trade in their horns. 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. South African poaching levels have therefore 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.

Rhinoceroses, particularly populations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Mozambique, Nepal, South Africa and Zimbabwe, are all suffering from poaching. Illegal trade in rhinoceros horn appears to be the drive behind this poaching. The illegal trade includes fraudulent applications for CITES documents, abuse of legal trophy hunting and the use of couriers smuggling horns from southern Africa to Far East Asia.

With the assistance of CITES trade controls, rhinoceros number, particularly in Africa, have increased consistently since the early 90s. This trend is being jeopardized by the upsurge in demand and consequent increase in poaching levels.

Mahogany

The Committee will also be reviewing and discussing the legal origin of mahogany from the range States in Latin America. New timber information systems will be considered to ensure that harvest is sustainable and trade is legal and traceable.

Additionally, the Committee will: identify indicators for a new strategic vision for the Convention, consider innovative finance solutions, clarify the rules for introducing marine species from international waters, study the relationship between the implementation of wildlife measures and the livelihoods of the rural poor, and consider e-permitting systems to allow more efficient regulation of international wildlife trade.

Note to journalists:

For more information, contact Juan Carlos Vasquez à +41 22 917 8156 or 41 79 552 27 32 (mobile) or juan.vasquez@cites.org.

For official documents and other information, see: http://www.cites.org/eng/com/sc/61/

The list of the Committee members can be found at: http://www.cites.org/eng/com/sc/member.php

Two radio interviews of the CITES Secretary/General can be listened at:

http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/english/2011/08/conservation-talks-launched-to-save-endangered-wildlife/

http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/english/2011/08/the-politics-behind-saving-our-species/

 


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