wild places | wild happenings | wild news
make a difference for our wild places

home | links | search the site
  all articles latest | past | articles by topics | search wildnews
wild news on wildsingapore
  Yahoo News 15 Jun 07
Ivory ban in the bag, UN wildlife body charts its future

by Marlowe Hood

Yahoo News 15 Jun 07
U.N. talks help eels, elephants, slow extinctions
By Alister Doyle

BBC 16 Jun 07
Cash row at wildlife trade forum
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News website, The Hague

A budget row dominated the final day of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) forum.

Member states approved a cut in real terms in CITES' budget, which could compromise attempts to control the illegal wildlife trade.

In a blow to whaling countries, delegates upheld an earlier ruling that CITES would not assess whale stocks.

An earlier proposal to prevent corals being used in jewellery was overturned, to the dismay of conservation groups.

And a renewed bid by the European Union to restrict trade in the spiny dogfish - sold in British fish and chip shops as huss, or rock salmon - was defeated.

The final day of the meeting was marked by acrimonious rhetoric, political wrangling and farcical scenes as the electronic voting system malfunctioned, delegates delayed proceedings by raising point after point of order, and a number of countries' seats emptied as people left for early flights home, missing the crucial late votes.

Over capacity

The biggest single issue had been resolved on Thursday, when delegates voted to allow southern African countries a one-off sale of stockpiled ivory, the third such sale since the ivory trade was banned in 1989.

But there is deep concern about the documented rise in illegal trading in ivory and rhinoceros horn, which is partly down to the low capacity of some central and west African nations to control poaching and domestic markets.

"Ultimately, CITES is about the ability of countries to implement it," said Sue Mainka of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). "That runs from customs authorities being able to recognise a specimen that's under CITES control, to being able to handle anything that's confiscated, to general public awareness campaigns about why all this is important.

"It's national-level capacity that will make CITES a success."

By implication, lack of national capacity will make CITES a relative failure; and the funding increase of just 6% voted through by delegates is in real terms a sharp decline, which may reduce the ability of the CITES organisation to improve that situation.

CITES secretary-general Willem Wijnstekers said the organisation needed a funding increase of 20% just to stand still.

It receives funds in US dollars, but disburses money in Swiss francs, and the recent dollar devaluation has hurt its finances.

The US and Japan, the two biggest funders, said they had no mandate from their governments to approve any funding increase.

Sea change

The major disappointments for conservation groups concerned the marine environment.

The European Union re-opened a proposal to have the spiny dogfish, a shark species, listed on CITES Appendix 2, which allows international trade under permits.

It believed fresh data might persuade delegates who had voted the motion down earlier in the meeting to approve it this time around; but in a secret ballot, it fell again.

"In general, the progress on conservation of marine species is being outpaced by the depletion of marine species," noted Sonja Fordham of the Shark Alliance. "We've been fighting a serious bloc of countries that have been opposed to listing on CITES of any sharks; now we're dealing with commercially valuable shark species, and it's even more of an uphill battle."

Another secret ballot overturned the earlier Appendix 2 listing of Corallium , a group of red and pink corals. Some conservation scientists believe that by the time of the next CITES meeting, Corallium will be so depleted that it will have to go on Appendix 1, which bans international trade.

The leader of the EU delegation, Germany's Jochen Flasbarth, believes that CITES' inclusion in recent years of commercially valuable species such as hardwoods, fish, whales and coral in its remit may have stimulated the politicking.

"If you look for the real problems of biological diversity around the world, it's clear that they lie in the forests and the marine environment," he said. "And as soon as you interfere in these areas you are confronted with huge economic interests."

Victory no fluke

Whaling had threatened to prove almost as controversial as ivory during this meeting, which followed hard on the heels of the International Whaling Convention's (IWC) annual gathering in Alaska, where pro-whaling Japan and its allies suffered a number of defeats.

Proposals here asked CITES to review whale stocks. An assessment that stocks are healthy could potentially lead to approval of the whale meat trade, and hence of commercial whaling itself.

Not only were these proposals defeated, but an Australian amendment, that CITES should never review whale stocks while the 21-year IWC moratorium remained in force, was approved.

Attempts by Japan's traditional allies to re-open this issue on the meeting's final day failed.

"It's another huge defeat for the whalers," commented Nicolas Entrup of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. "They lost at the International Whaling Commission meeting, they lost again here, and on top of that CITES has agreed not to consider whales again while the IWC moratorium remains in force."

The next CITES summit is scheduled for three years' time, and is likely to be held in Qatar.

With 150 species being lost each day according to the UN, and with international trade partly responsible, it is likely to see many more protection requests from conservation groups, but equally implacable opposition from countries that feel their commercial interests being threatened.

Yahoo News 15 Jun 07
Ivory ban in the bag, UN wildlife body charts its future

by Marlowe Hood

The UN body regulating trade in threatened species ratified decisions Friday protecting elephants, eels, and at least one species of shark, as it sought to expand its role in global wildlife management.

In a last-minute about-turn, however, it reversed a decision made two days earlier and removed restrictions on the international trade in coral species severely depleted by commercial exploitation.

"The science was clear on this issue and not debated. This is a political decision," said Elizabeth Meely of Sea Web, a marine conservation group.

Wrapping up business before reconvening in 2010, the 171-nation Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species laid out a "strategic vision" that it hopes will give it greater clout in regulating the multi-billion dollar exploitation of valuable woods and marine life.

"We have always been kept away from commercial marine and timber species, but that is disappearing," said CITES secretary general Willem Wijnstekers.

CITES also locked in a landmark nine-year ban on international trade in ivory which seeks to stem a surge in poaching that has killed up to 20,000 elephants per year. The ban will go into effect after the one-off sale to Japan, and -- pending CITES approval -- China, of elephant tusks held by four southern African nations.

The agreement, reached after weeks of sometimes fierce debate among African nations, breaks an 18-year deadlock and was hailed by Wijnstekers as "a great step forward for wildlife conservation."

The UN body, set up in 1973 to ensure that global trade does not threaten species survival, also sent a strong message to China on tigers.

A resolution originally drafted by Beijing but amended during debate turned into a rebuke against the practice of large-scale tiger farming -- unique to China -- and a warning against lifting a 14-year ban on domestic trade in tiger parts. China came into the conference saying it was evaluating petitions from domestic businesses to allow in-country sale of tiger-bone tonics.

CITES can ban international wildlife commerce, but is powerless to impose rules on commerce within a given country.

"Tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives," said the final resolution, which was adopted by consensus after China failed in an attempt to change the wording. There are twice as many of the big cats on Chinese farms -- some 5,000 -- as in the wild worldwide, experts say.

In all, dozens of measures were adopted protected fauna and flora ranging from sea cucumbers to cacti to coral.

CITES placed Asia's slow loris, prized in Japan as a pet, on its Appendix I, which already outlaws cross-border trade for some 500 animals, including big Asian cats, elephants, sea turtles.

It also voted down a US bid to lift protection of bobcats, and blocked what conservationists decried as a back-door manoeuvre by Japan to reopen commercial whaling.

But the results of CITES efforts to expand its turf into species subjected to large-scale commercial exploitation were mixed.

"The real problems for biological diversity around the world are in the forests and in the oceans," said German delegate Jochen Flasbarth. "But as soon as you interfere in these regions you are confronted with huge economic interests."

Historically, CITES has focused mostly on fauna and flora -- especially "big charismatic animals," in the words of its legal officer Juan Carlos Vasquez -- that are not the object of commercial harvesting.

The 200-million-euro business in European eels will now have to adjust to sharp restrictions on trade in the species, eaten to the edge of extinction in Europe and East Asia.

Proposals to protect two species of shark, however, did not pass the two-thirds muster required. The porbeagle shark and the spiny dogfish -- prized for their fins by Chinese gourmets, and their meat by fish-and-chip lovers -- remained on the hook after tight votes.

A measure to protect of South American cedar, proposed by the European Union, was taken off the table under pressure from producer nations before the conference even opened.

Attempts to shield rosewood and a cedar species from unregulated harvesting also failed.

Yahoo News 15 Jun 07
U.N. talks help eels, elephants, slow extinctions
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

Elephants and eels may find life slightly easier as a result of trade curbs imposed after UN talks that ended on Friday in a modest attempt to slow what may be the worst wave of extinctions since the dinosaurs.

The June 3-15 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) also agreed to curb trade in commercial species including Brazilwood timber, used in violin bows, and sawfish, which have long toothed snouts.

"We have listings of commercial fish species, commercial timber species and I think that should continue," CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers told a news conference.

But the 171-nation meeting rejected many other conservation proposals.

On Friday, it voted down a decision reached two days ago to regulate trade in red and pink corals after a rearguard action by Mediterranean jewelry producers.

Still, Wijnstekers said CITES, set up in 1975 with powers to ban or restrict trade in endangered species, was getting more involved in the billion-dollar commercial trade after spending early years focused on exotic species such as parrots or snakes.

"We have always been kept away from commercial fish and commercial timber but that is now slowly disappearing," he said.

There are a few exceptions, such as sturgeon -- over fished for caviar -- that have had trade protection since 1975, he said.

In the most high-profile decision, the conference agreed to extend a 1989 ban on elephant ivory exports for nine years, after a sale from stockpiles by Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe as part of a plan to end poaching.


The deal was a compromise between nations wanting a 20-year ban to try to crack down on poaching, and the four southern African nations which say that farmers and villagers are suffering from conflicts with rising elephant populations.

Among commercial fish species, the conference voted to restrict trade in the European eel after stocks crashed due to over-fishing. Baby eels can sometimes be more expensive than caviar, for the same weight.

The talks voted down a European Union call to regulate trade in spiny dogfish, sometimes eaten in Britain's fish and chips. Argentina and Canada said on Friday that the problem was EU over-fishing, not trade.

The meeting also rejected an EU drive to restrict trade in Latin American cedar and rosewood trees used in furniture and musical instruments.

"There were some good things and some bad," said Susan Lieberman, head of the WWF conservation group's species program. "But there are a lot of countries that would prefer a few more years' exploitation than long-term protection."

The talks are part of global efforts to slow what the United Nations says is the worst extinction crisis since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago, caused by loss of habitats, pollution, rising human populations and climate change.

The U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity said last month that species are disappearing at a rate of three an hour. By that reckoning, about 1,000 species vanished during the talks.

"Where are the problems of biological diversity? It's clear it's in the forests, it's clear that it's in the marine. And then you run into huge economic interests," said Jochen Flasbarth, the German official who heads the EU delegation.

CITES, which has just 24 staff, merely looks at species affected by trade while other U.N. agencies have more power over other areas such as loss of habitats, Wijnstekers noted. "Three species an hour is not caused by trade."

You CAN make a difference
Support Acres who work against illegal wildlife trade

Mixed results: International wildlife trade convention draws to an end 15 Jun 07
on the WWF website

Related articles on Wildlife trade
about the site | email ria
  News articles are reproduced for non-profit educational purposes.

website©ria tan 2003 www.wildsingapore.com