CITES Scorecard, 1994

The ninth Conference of the Parties (COP) for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was held November 7-18 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.Delegates from 119 nations and representatives from 221 nongovernmental organizations were in attendance. Established in Washington in1973, CITES has ensured the survival of some of the world's most magnificent and endangered wildlife.

CITES maintains three appendices that provide different levels of protection for wildlife, depending on the threats facing an individual species. Appendix I lists highly endangered species and prohibits all international commercial trade in these species.(Sport-hunting trophies are allowed under certain conditions.)Appendix II, which lists species that could become endangered because of unregulated trade, strictly governs trade in those species. Appendix III contains species protected by national legislation in countries that believe trade in the protected species should be monitored.

According to Interpol, the deceptively lucrative, illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products constitutes a $5 billion-a-year industry. The U.S. Customs Agency reports that wildlife trafficking is as shadowy and as profitable as drug trading, and the two are increasingly linked. To combat the highly organized and destructive wildlife trade, CITES must have a powerful enforcement mechanism;but sadly, CITES has only one law enforcement officer. No enforcement committee or working group exists to monitor individual countries' wildlife trade.

Many conservationists hoped that an effective CITES enforcement resolution would be adopted at this year's conference, thus creating a well- funded law enforcement network with regional cooperation to provide technical assistance to countries in need of stronger enforcement knowledge. The resolution that was finally adopted failed to satisfy that hope, but it did recognize "that the available resources for enforcement are negligible when compared to the profits gained from such trafficking" in wildlife.That recognition creates a basis for real work on this urgent issue.

A number of species proposals discussed at CITES occasioned vigorous debate. South Africa attempted once again to have its elephant population listed in Appendix II rather than Appendix I. This shift, which South Africa had sought at the 1992 CITES conference in Kyoto, Japan, would have permitted the resumption of international commercial trade in elephant parts, excluding ivory, although the desire for future ivory trade was clear.

The controversy engendered by this proposal ultimately led South Africa to withdraw it. Zambia reminded the delegates that although1.5 percent of Africa's elephants live in South Africa, the South African proposal would jeopardize the existence of the continent's remaining 98.5 percent. Sudan, which also wanted its elephant population listed in Appendix II, responded to the international outcry against this move and followed South Africa by withdrawing the proposal.

Having failed in its attempt to downgrade the listing of its elephant population, South Africa then proposed a similar shift in the listing of its white rhinoceros population.CITES parties agreed to a compromise proposal, instead, that allows the sale of live specimens and hunting trophies.

Although the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has resisted pressure by Norway to allow commercial kills of minke whales,Norway proposed listing the northeast Atlantic and north central stocks of minke whales in Appendix II instead of Appendix I, a move that would have allowed the sale of minke products. Norway initiated a ploy to list these whale stocks in Appendix II without allowing commercial sale of minke products until the IWC renders its final decision in Dublin in 1995. This diversionary tactic was heartily defeated.

Because of increased tiger poaching, especially in India, where protection and enforcement are lax, delegates discussed a resolution on the conservation of tigers and the trade in tiger parts. The resolution recognizes the need to eliminate the use of tiger parts and derivatives in traditional medicine communities throughout the East. Strong enforcement of the convention is vital to ensure compliance with CITES' existing mandate against the use of products from the critically imperiled tiger.

The 1994 CITES conference was successful in avoiding potential disaster for many species. Parties at the conference recognized that consumptive, sustainable use of wildlife is not the only conservation tool available and that enforcement issues must be addressed before any trade in endangered species can be allowed.This recognition is sure to be challenged when delegates convene in Zimbabwe in 1997 for the tenth COP. Then, as now, the animal exploiters of the world will try again to weaken CITES to their advantage.

Clifford J. Wood
Wildlife Specialist, Environmental Investigation Agency
Adam M. Roberts
Research Associate, Society for Animal Protective Legislation

Animals' Agenda Volume 15, No. 1, Jan. Feb. 1995,p. 34

Reprinted with permission from The Animals'Agenda, P.O.Box, 25881, Baltimore, MD 21224
http://www.animalsagenda.org