Better protection for elephants, rhinos and more from UN treaty



Posted on 25 March 2013  | 
WWF's message to the Thai prime minister and CITES delegates was "You don't have to be a superhero to stop wildlife crime."
© WWF THAILANDEnlarge
A look at WWF's successes at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species for our priority species from apes to turtles. Click the headlines for full articles.

Ban on ivory trade pledged by Thai PM

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pledged at the opening of CITES to end ivory trade in Thailand, seizing a key opportunity to stem global wildlife trafficking. She said Thailand would take steps to end ivory trade – the first time the Thai government has said this publicly. Her statement came after the call of nearly 1.5 million WWF and Avaaz supporters.

“As a next step we will forward amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end on ivory trade and to be in line with international norms,” Prime Minster Shinawatra said. “This will help protect all forms of elephants including Thailand’s wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa.”

“We’re thrilled to hear that Prime Minister Shinawatra took this opportunity to seize the global spotlight and pledge to end ivory trade in her country. But the fight to stop wildlife crime and shut down Thailand’s ivory markets is not over. Prime Minister Shinawatra now needs to provide a timeline for this ban and ensure that it takes place as a matter of urgency, because the slaughter of elephants continues,” said Carlos Drews head of WWF’s delegation to CITES.

Thai Buddhist leaders pray for poached elephants, call for end to ivory use

Revered Thai Buddhist leaders held the first-ever Buddhist merit-making ceremony to pray for the tens of thousands of elephants poached annually. They also called on their congregations and other temples to reject the use and trade of ivory.

“Having prestigious leaders from the Buddhist community in Thailand lead this ceremony here, which is usually practiced for a family member who has passed away, emphasizes that we are all interdependent and part of one great web of life,” said Phansiri Winichagoon, country director of WWF-Thailand.

Historic vote protects sharks and manta rays at CITES

A historic vote occurred at CITES to regulate trade of five species of sharks and two of manta ray. Science prevailed over politics and this decision will put a major dent in the uncontrolled trade in shark meat and fins, which is rapidly destroying populations of these precious animals to feed the growing demand for luxury goods.

“These timely decisions to have trade in sharks and manta rays regulated by CITES show that governments can muster the political will to keep our oceans healthy, securing food and other benefits for generations to come – and we hope to see similar action in the future to protect other commercially exploited and threatened marine species, both at the national and international level.” said Carlos Drews head of WWF’s delegation to CITES.

Large numbers of threatened reef fish still traded

One of WWF`s footprint species the humphead wrasse, a tropical reef fish, is still suffering from illegal and unreported international trade despite being listed by CITES. Discussions held by governments meeting in Bangkok, Thailand outlined a number of ways to help curb this problem and maintain protection of this threatened fish.

“Regulating the trade throughout Asia aims to protect humphead wrasse from overfishing and encourages sustainable fishing which will ensure a future for this species.” said Dr Colman O Criodain, WWF`s Policy Analyst, International Wildlife Trade.

Rhinos offered more protection by governments

CITES governments made a clear choice to offer more protection to rhinos by agreeing on timelines that will help two of the worst offenders in the rhino horn trade, Viet Nam and Mozambique, clean up their act.
The challenge now is to ensure that Viet Nam and Mozambique make progress on their CITES commitments within the agreed time frame to avoid trade sanctions in the summer of 2014.

"This is a big step forward for the protection of rhinos, a prehistoric animal that are being butchered for their horns at alarming rates to feed demand primarily in Viet Nam,” said Carlos Drews, head of WWF’s delegation at CITES.

Governments fall short on immediate efforts to curb illegal ivory trade at wildlife trade meeting

Governments at CITES opted against immediate trade sanctions against several countries that have repeatedly failed to tackle the trade in ivory. Despite an early discussion on potential trade sanctions against countries failing to regulate their ivory markets, governments did not enact those rules against offenders.

“We’re disappointed by the lack of urgency from governments to speed up the sanctions process against countries that have failed to act for years to curb the illegal ivory trade in their countries, while the slaughter of thousands of elephants continues in Africa,” said Carlos Drews, head of WWF’s CITES delegation.

World`s valuable timbers protected against illegal trade

Precious ebony and rosewood timbers have secured protection by CITES in recognition of possible extinction due to illegal logging and the significant increased demand in international trade. Both kinds of timber are exported for use in making musical instruments, furniture and decorative items, such as chess pieces, due to their unusual heartwood.

“This is a good decision by the governments of CITES and we hope that this will ensure the future of these precious trees” said Dr Colman O Criodain, WWF`s Policy Analyst, International Wildlife Trade.

Guinea sanctioned for illicit wildlife trade, including great apes

Governments at CITES have decided to suspend trade in listed species with Guinea. The West African country has been reported to issue fraudulent permits for a number of animals, including great apes.

The sanctions prevent Guinea from importing and exporting all the 35,000 species listed by CITES. They have been sanctioned due to concerns over the issuance of invalid CITES permits, which facilitated illegal trade for protected species. Great apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas, among other species, have been exported from Guinea, reaching foreign markets, especially in Asia.

Rare turtle sets Japanese precedent

Japan is asking the world’s governments to help protect the Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle, a rare turtle found on only three small islands in the Okinawa group.

The appearance of the species in the pet trade outside Japan strongly suggests illegal activity is taking place. Governments at CITES chose to accept the Japanese listing proposal, which will see this unique turtle gain better protection against illegal international trade.

“The proposal to list the Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle is a small but significant step for Japan,” said Kahoru Kanari, Senior Programme Officer with TRAFFIC and an author of the report. “

Apes swing into CITES

Governments at CITES agreed to develop a comprehensive reporting mechanism on the illegal killing and trade of great apes.

WWF believes that the real number of apes killed and traded is double or even triple this figure, due to the larger, more influential and significant bushmeat trade, which needs greater attention. Especially in Central Africa, ape meat is still a sought after commodity for mid-high level socio-political functions.

“CITES has shown it can take strong measures to tackle international trade in great apes, for example by agreeing CITES trade sanctions for Guinea last week partly due to illegal ape trade,” said Wendy Elliott, from the WWF Illegal Wildlife Trade Campaign.

Worst offenders in ivory trade held to account

Governments mandated China, Kenya, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Uganda, Tanzania and Viet Nam, considered the worst offenders in failing to properly regulate the ivory trade in their countries, to implement timebound plans to deal with the problem and report back on their progress or face possible trade restrictions.

Under CITES rules, failure by those countries to take action would lead to a compliance process potentially leading to sanctions. The treaty allows CITES member states to recommend that parties stop trading with non-compliant countries in the 35,000 species covered under the convention, from orchids to crocodile skins.

“After years of inaction, governments today put those countries doing little or nothing to regulate the ivory trade on watch, a move that will help stem the unfettered slaughter of thousands of African elephants. The gains made to better protect species here in Bangkok are a major milestone.” said Carlos Drews, head of WWF’s CITES delegation.

WWF's message to the Thai prime minister and CITES delegates was "You don't have to be a superhero to stop wildlife crime."
© WWF THAILAND Enlarge
A monk at Wat That Thong temple in Bangkok During a Buddhist merit-making ceremony to pray for the tens of thousands of elephants poached annually. 9 March 2013.
© WWF Thailand Enlarge

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