Success for sharks and elephants at wildlife trade talks;
rhinos get a reprieve
Humane Society International's (HSI) marine experts are celebrating triple success at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) today as Parties voted to give greater protection to thresher sharks, silky sharks and devil rays by listing them all in Appendix II.
HSI's Senior Program Manager Alexia Wellbelove said, "Today's vote to give CITES protections to thresher and silky sharks, reflects a seismic shift in the way the world views and conserves sharks. It indicates that countries recognise the conservation crisis of largely unmonitored international commercial trade in shark products such as fins and meat, leaving many shark species struggling to survive. We are delighted that CITES Parties have acknowledged the urgent need to correct this oversight in order to maintain healthy shark populations, and now we urge them to finalise the adoption of this measure by giving it the green light at the end of this meeting later this week,” said Ms Wellbelove.
Devil rays are beautiful, defenceless marine animals that have come under increasing serious threat due to demand from Asia for their food-filtering gill plates which are used in 'medical' products. Today member countries of CITES have given us hope that they will take the necessary actions to protect angelic devil rays from possible extinction. With this species in serious decline, this decision comes just in time, so we urge countries to approve this measure at the end of the meeting later this week.”
Humane Society International's wildlife experts are also rejoicing as CITES Parties today defeated a proposal by Swaziland to sell existing stocks of rhinoceros horn and horn harvested from the 74 living rhinos in the country to licensed retailers in Asia. The rhino news comes hot on the heels of a devastatingly disappointing decision early today by CITES Parties to reject the up-listing of all African elephants to Appendix I despite a clear conservation need.
"The world has done the right thing by rejecting the proposal to allow international trade in rhino horn between Swaziland and "licensed retailers in Asia”. This proposal could have reversed years of progress to reduce demand, crack down on rhino horn trafficking and protect rhinos in their natural environment. The world has reiterated its commitment to protecting rhinos by confirming that rhino horn is only valuable on a living rhino's head.”
On elephants, Humane Society International, issued the following statement:
"African elephants are dying by the day for a commercial trade in their ivory that has surely set them on a path to extinction unless the global community took the opportunity to act quickly and decisively to stamp that trade out. CITES Parties had such an opportunity today by giving this imperilled species the highest possible Appendix I listing, but they failed to do so. This is an appalling global oversight that fails not only the African elephant, as well as the range States demanding Appendix I protection for them, but also millions of elephant supporters worldwide who invested huge hope in CITES to give elephants the help they desperately need.
Our only hope now is that the plenary session later this week will reverse this disastrous decision. Today's failure to protect African elephant populations, hands victory to ivory trade profiteers. It is shocking that CITES has stood in the way of greater protection for this species when the world can see how urgently the need is to preserve them. If left unchanged, it is a stain on CITES's conservation legacy. We are especially disappointed in the United States' and China's opposition which undermines their strong support for closure of domestic ivory markets and is a slap in the face to the nearly 30 African elephant range states who demanded this protection for their elephants.”
However Humane Society International has praised CITES Parties for adopting a resolution recommending the closure of domestic elephant ivory markets.
"The interim decision recommending closure of domestic ivory markets worldwide is a resounding victory for the African elephant. We hope that the plenary session later this week will confirm this decision. There is no excuse for any countries to continue their domestic ivory markets because legal ivory markets provide a convenient cover to launder illicit ivory and perpetuate the market demand. The choice is clear, either you are on the side of the African elephant or the side of the elephant-decimating, wildlife-crime fuelling ivory trade.”
However not all news out of the CITES meeting has been good. Humane Society International reacted with disappointment that Parties to CITES did not ban all commercial trade in African lions. The Parties agreed to keep the African lion listed on Appendix II of the international treaty with an annotation that bans the trade in their parts, including bones, claws, teeth and skulls sourced from wild lions.
"It's a bitter disappointment for the future survival of African lions that despite estimates of there being less than 20,000 of these magnificent wild cats left in the wild, CITES Parties today only agreed to the absolute minimum actions available under CITES to protect them. Whilst we were encouraged that CITES Parties agreed to prohibit commercial trade in wild lions and lion parts, they utterly failed to adequately address the trade in lion bones, skins, teeth, claws, and other parts sourced from South Africa's extensive captive lion breeding farms, which is where the vast majority of the trade is coming from. This means, for example, that if a hunter kills a captive lion in a 'canned hunt' in South Africa or elsewhere, any unwanted bones from the 'trophy' can be sold commercially and help fuel a largely Asian traditional medicine market demand for big cat bones. Instead of giving lions the maximum protection of an Appendix I uplisting, they have been left on Appendix II, and instead of stamping out the main source of commercial trade in lion parts, CITES Parties have left it wide open."
All of these proposals are subject to final approval at the meeting, which ends on Wednesday 5th October in Johannesburg, South Africa.