CITES Scorecard, 1994

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

CITES maintains three appendices that provide different levelsof protection for wildlife, depending on the threats facing anindividual species. Appendix I lists highly endangered speciesand prohibits all international commercial trade in these species.(Sport-hunting trophies are allowed under certain conditions.)Appendix II, which lists species that could become endangeredbecause of unregulated trade, strictly governs trade in thosespecies. Appendix III contains species protected by national legislationin countries that believe trade in the protected species shouldbe monitored.

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

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

A number of species proposals discussed at CITES occasioned vigorousdebate. South Africa attempted once again to have its elephantpopulation listed in Appendix II rather than Appendix I. Thisshift, which South Africa had sought at the 1992 CITES conferencein Kyoto, Japan, would have permitted the resumption of internationalcommercial trade in elephant parts, excluding ivory, althoughthe desire for future ivory trade was clear.

The controversy engendered by this proposal ultimately led SouthAfrica to withdraw it. Zambia reminded the delegates that although1.5 percent of Africa's elephants live in South Africa, the SouthAfrican proposal would jeopardize the existence of the continent'sremaining 98.5 percent. Sudan, which also wanted its elephantpopulation listed in Appendix II, responded to the internationaloutcry against this move and followed South Africa by withdrawingthe proposal.

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

Although the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has resistedpressure by Norway to allow commercial kills of minke whales,Norway proposed listing the northeast Atlantic and north centralstocks of minke whales in Appendix II instead of Appendix I, amove that would have allowed the sale of minke products. Norwayinitiated a ploy to list these whale stocks in Appendix II withoutallowing commercial sale of minke products until the IWC rendersits final decision in Dublin in 1995. This diversionary tacticwas heartily defeated.

Because of increased tiger poaching, especially in India, whereprotection and enforcement are lax, delegates discussed a resolutionon the conservation of tigers and the trade in tiger parts. Theresolution recognizes the need to eliminate the use of tiger partsand derivatives in traditional medicine communities throughoutthe East. Strong enforcement of the convention is vital to ensurecompliance with CITES' existing mandate against the use of productsfrom the critically imperiled tiger.

The 1994 CITES conference was successful in avoiding potentialdisaster for many species. Parties at the conference recognizedthat consumptive, sustainable use of wildlife is not the onlyconservation tool available and that enforcement issues must beaddressed before any trade in endangered species can be allowed.This recognition is sure to be challenged when delegates convenein Zimbabwe in 1997 for the tenth COP. Then, as now, the animalexploiters of the world will try again to weaken CITES to theiradvantage.

Clifford J. Wood
Wildlife Specialist, Environmental InvestigationAgency
Adam M. Roberts
Research Associate, Society for AnimalProtective 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