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  Yahoo News 3 Jun 07
UN urges protection of animals from climate change
By Anna Mudeva

Yahoo News 3 Jun 07
Wildlife trade talks focus on species survival, human livelihood
by Marlowe Hood

Yahoo News 31 May 07
CITES to study species over-exploitation

By Arthur Max, Associated Press Writer

If you think the problem of endangered species is all about tigers, elephants and orangutans, ask a violinist where he gets his bow. The best violin bows are made from pau brasil, a tree from the Brazilian rain forest that has been exploited for 500 years, and was once so economically vital for the red dye it produced that it gave its name to the only country where it grows.

Pau brasil is among dozens of plants and animals threatened with extinction that are on the agenda of the 171-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, which opens its meeting Sunday.

About 7,000 animals and 32,000 plant families now are regulated, including more than 800 species which are banned completely from commerce. Bows from brazilwood, also known as Pernambuco, have been coveted by musicians since Mozart's time in the mid-1700s for their sound quality, density, rich color and strength in holding a curve.

Brazil has tried to halt the decline of the tree's coastal habitat, delineating 189 national forests and protected areas as it works to fend off the encroachments of sugar and coffee plantations, gold miners, timber merchants and cattlemen.

It takes a lot of wood to make a violin bow of every 3,300 pounds, only 220 to 440 pounds are usable, experts say, and 80 percent of that is wasted in carving the bow. The tree has a trunk only about 15 feet long, meaning a tree can produce only a few bows.

Also on the agenda is Honduran rosewood, a tree that grows in small areas of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize from which top-quality marimbas are made. And Peru may face sanctions for failing to control the export of mahogany, which is used for guitars. About 90 percent of the mahogany from the Peruvian Amazon is logged illegally, said Kris Genovese of the Defenders of Wildlife.

Although they cannot vote, non-government organizations and lobby groups will present papers at the CITES meeting, speak and prowl the corridors.

Among them is the Pernambuco Initiative, with a membership of 220 people claiming 70 percent of the world's bow makers in 22 countries. It already has financed the planting of thousands of pau brasil seedlings since 2002.

"Conservation of a tropical timber species is a complex issue," the group said in a paper appended to Brazil's proposal on protecting its forests.

"One of the most important factors is to have the support and involvement of the users of the species." The CITES conference focuses on over-exploitation of exotic species.

But in the background this year are fresh warnings that many more species will be wiped out by climate change.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said a global temperature rise of 3.6 degrees the minimum scientists expect by the end of this century will kill 30 percent of all known species.

"Climate change is a major threat, but so is trade," said Susan Lieberman, director of the Species Unit for the World Wildlife Fund. "More and more species are being threatened because of globalization."

Many of the issues to be discussed are familiar from previous CITES meetings.

Botswana, supported by Namibia and Tanzania, wants to relax the 1989 ban on the ivory trade, arguing that its elephant population has rebounded. The 150,000 animals roaming the savanna are increasingly competing with man for space, it says. Local people think "elephants are a pest," Botswana said in its application. It pledged to earmark state revenue from the ivory trade to elephant conservation and community development.

But conservationists object, saying the illegal ivory trade is thriving and that lifting the ban in some countries would make it easier to poach elephants all over Africa, where herds are shrinking.

China, which agreed in 1993 to halt the trade in tiger bones, wants to harvest tiger products from breeding farms, saying it would help satisfy the demand for traditional medicines without threatening tigers in the wild, which are on the verge of extinction. China has several farms raising thousands of captive tigers.

Opponents argue legitimizing the sale of tiger parts would only re-ignite a public appetite for the banned goods and encourage poaching of the big cat. "The Chinese ban has been working really well," WWF's Lieberman said. "But they are under a lot of pressure from powerful businessmen."

One new item on the agenda is a German proposal to regulate trade in the spiny dogfish, a small migratory shark commonly used for fish-and-chips. Stocks of reproductive females have declined by 95 percent in the Northeast Atlantic and by 75 percent in the Northwest Atlantic, says WWF. A female takes up to 23 years to mature.

Germany also wants to list porbeagle sharks, another slow-growing shark prized for its meat and fins for shark fin soup.

Among the 36 proposals each requiring a two-thirds majority of voting member states are recommendations to increase protection for whales, sawfish, European eel, and Brazilian spiny lobsters.

Yahoo News 3 Jun 07
Wildlife trade talks focus on species survival, human livelihood
by Marlowe Hood

Representatives from 171 nations, monitored by a small army of wildlife advocates, began debating dozens of sharply contested measures Sunday on how best to regulate the global trade in wildlife.

"You are making policy for the biodiversity of the future," Gerda Verburg, chairwoman and Dutch agriculture and nature minister, told some 2,500 delegates from the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, better known as CITES.

Decimated by over-exploitation and smuggling, hundreds of endangered species ranging from orchids to elephants will get a hearing during the two-week gathering in The Hague.

Orangutans sold on the black market as exotic pets, wild tiger parts ground up into Chinese medicines, sharks scalped to make soup, rare hardwoods hewn into designer coffee tables -- the global appetite for wild flora and fauna is seemingly inexhaustible.

The world's only international body with the power to slap moratoriums on the sale of plants and animals is also considering a controversial shift in "strategic vision" that would take the impact on human communities into account.

During its first meeting in three years, CITES will vote on measures that could determine the survival of several species of gazelle and shark, Asian tigers, Ugandan leopards, great apes, and a handful of hardwood trees in Latin America. In some cases, safeguards that helped plants and animals recover from near extinction may be eased or removed.

Among the most contested measures is a proposal for a 20-year ban of ivory trade favoured by 20 African nations, led by Kenya and Mali. Even before the opening ceremony, the Standing Committee of CITES authorised on Saturday the sale of 60 tonnes of African ivory to Japan, a decision condemned by some conservation groups as an encouragement to poaching.

Legal and illegal trade in wild fauna and flora generates tens of billions of dollars (euros) in revenue every year, even after commercial fishing and the timber industry are set aside.

In the coming days delegates will debate the wisdom of seeking a middle ground between safeguarding wildlife and the safeguarding the livelihood of local populations who exploit it.

Decisions on extending trade protection to a species "should take into account potential impacts on the livelihood of the poor," CITES Secretary General Williem Wijnstekers said at the opening ceremony.

"These changes are long overdue. It is one of the reasons we are failing to be effective," said Juan Carlos Vasquez, Legal Officer for CITES.

The disproportionate focus on big mammals -- what Vasquez calls "charismatic species" -- leads to "choices that are more emotional than rational," he said.

But some non-governmental conservation groups argue that the shift would water down the convention's original mission. It "may actually weaken or even contradict the principle role and primary goal of the convention, which is the protection against over-exploitation through international trade," said Lynn Levine of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

CITES is also seeking to play a larger role in protecting species exploited in the commercial fisheries and timber industries, "long considered off-limits to the Convention," Wijnskekers said.

Poaching and over-exploitation are not the only threat to endangered species. Shrinking habitats, pollution and more recently global warming have all played a role.

CITES came into force in 1975, and currently covers almost 33,000 species, more than 80 percent of them in the plant kingdom. Animals and plants can be recommended by individual countries for inclusion in one of the three appendices depending on the level of protection needed. Approval requires a two-thirds majority.

The sawtooth shark, whose numbers have been decimated by demand for its much-prized fins, for example, stands a good chance of being included in "Appendix I" along side some 530 other animals already protected by total or near-total bans, conservation groups say.

Two other species of the fearsome ocean predator -- the porbeagle shark and the spiny dogfish -- have been nominated for membership in the less restrictive "Appendix II" category, which requires scientific certification and certification of origin to be traded.

Appendix III applies to species that are protected within the borders of one or more countries.

Yahoo News 3 Jun 07
UN urges protection of animals from climate change
By Anna Mudeva

A senior United Nations official urged a 171-nation U.N. wildlife forum on Sunday to take action to help protect animals from climate change.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) will also discuss measures at its two week-week meeting to help commercially valuable animal and tree species threatened by over-use.

A U.N. report has said human activities were wiping out three animal or plant species every hour and has urged the world to do more to slow the worst spate of extinctions since the dinosaurs by 2010.

Global warming, blamed mainly on human use of fossil fuels, is widely expected to add to existing threats and wreck habitats like the Amazon rain forest.

"CITES is not a forum for discussing climate change but decisions taken here do have an impact on species in a climatically challenged world," Shafgat Kakaklhel, deputy head of the U.N. Environment Programme, told the opening session. "We will need robust species populations if they are to survive rising temperatures and more extremes," he said.


Many of the 37 proposals to be discussed at the meeting in The Hague reflect growing concern about rapid depletion of marine and forest resources. Commercially valuable species like the spiny dogfish, the porbeagle shark and the European eel -- all threatened by over-use -- feature high on the agenda.

The focus will also be on coral jewellery, wooden musical instruments and furniture. Threatened species like pink or red coral and rosewood and cedar trees are facing tighter trade regulations. Elephants are expected to trigger heated debate. African countries are split over the protection of the elephant, with some saying elephant populations have grown at an unsustainable rate.

CITES is widely credited with stemming the slaughter of the African elephant by imposing a ban on the international ivory trade in 1989. But scientists say the killing of elephants for their tusks, mainly in central Africa, has reached levels not seen since 1989 because of Asian-run crime syndicates.

The talks will also help shape the future of CITES, which has banned trade in 530 animal species and more than 300 plant species. CITES also regulates trade in 4,460 animal species and 28,000 plant species.

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