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28 Feb, 2013

Tackling Illegal Wildlife Trade Focus of Triennial IUCN Meeting in Bangkok


Bangkok, 26 February 2013 (IUCN media release): New measures to sustainably manage the international trade in sharks, rhinos, elephants and numerous other species will be debated at the triennial conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which takes place 3 to 14 March in Bangkok.

With 177 Parties, or government members, CITES is one of the world’s most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation. IUCN was instrumental in creating the convention in 1973 and continues to provide technical and scientific advice.

A strong delegation of IUCN experts is attending this year’s meeting, helping the Parties to make scientifically-based and well-informed decisions. The conference is especially significant as it coincides with the 40 year anniversary of CITES.

There will be much debate at the Bangkok conference about how to manage and conserve species that are traded internationally and how to regulate this trade. Species such as sharks, snakes, humphead wrasse, Asian big cats, great apes, elephants, rhino, antelopes and crocodiles will all be under the spotlight.

“This year’s conference comes at a critical moment: rhino poaching is at record high, illegal trade in ivory and python skins is causing increasing concern and other species are also moving closer to extinction due to unsustainable trade,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “Countries must step up cooperation and enforce existing laws to ensure that wildlife is used sustainably, securing healthy biodiversity and livelihoods.”

Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and includes hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist souvenirs and foods used for medicines.

Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species such as the short-tailed albatross and the southern white rhino close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important to safeguard these resources for the future.

CITES offers varying degrees of protection to thousands of species of animals and plants in international trade through a system of permits and certificates. Species are included in one of three lists, called Appendices. For every CITES Conference, IUCN and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, prepare the Analyses of the Proposals to Amend the Appendices. These are objective assessments of whether the proposals to change species listings on the Appendices meet the necessary trade and biological criteria.

The Convention is increasingly focusing on commercially-important species including fish and trees valuable for timber. Many of the proposals on the agenda reflect growing international concern about the accelerating destruction of the world’s marine and forest ecosystems through over-fishing and excessive logging.