Global action taken to protect elephant, rhino and other species threatened by the illegal wildlife trade



Posted on 14 March 2013  | 
An international wildlife trade meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, in March, boosted efforts to stop the unsustainable trade in a number of species ranging from rhino and elephant to sharks, rays and several tree species prized for their timber.

In an important development at the opening of the meeting the Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, announced that Thailand would shut down the country’s ivory markets after more than 1.5 million people signed petitions by WWF and Avaaz, supported by actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

The growing threat to rhinos and elephants was a priority issue at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) - an international agreement which aims to prevent the extinction or unsustainable loss of species due to trade, which is the second-biggest direct threat to species after habitat destruction. Governments agreed to take stronger action against countries that historically have done little to stop the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade.

An estimated 30,000 elephants are lost every year to poachers seeking the valuable ivory tusks. To address this issue, CITES agreed to require the countries most implicated in illicit ivory trade to clamp down on smuggling. China, Kenya, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Uganda, Tanzania and Viet Nam are the countries of highest concern. These countries are mandated to submit time-bound plans to deal with the problem and make progress before the next CITES meeting in summer of 2014. Failure to take action may lead to punitive action resulting in countries being unable to trade in any of the 35,000 species covered by CITES. Carlos Drews, WWF’s head of delegation at CITES, describes the move to be a “major milestone” in the protection of species.

In 2012, more than 700 rhino were illegally killed in South Africa, and to date in 2013 the rate of killing is even higher. Governments extended better protection to threatened rhinos by pledging to work against organized crime syndicates by increasing penalties, and adopted a plan to reduce overall consumer demand for the illegal rhino horn.

Governments also reaffirmed stronger protection for three hammerhead shark, the porbeagle and oceanic whitetip sharks, and two manta ray species. The sharks and manta rays were listed on CITES Appendix II, a listing that will help regulate their legal international trade to sustainable levels.

And in a further important step, negotiators voted to ramp up trade regulations for several species of rosewood and ebony, which have been subject to dangerous levels of illegal logging leading to deforestation, especially in Madagascar.

CITES 2013 took several key steps crucial for the protection of species threatened by trade by requiring greater accountability among countries associated with the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn and unsustainable trade in threatened species such as sharks and manta rays. WWF will now follow up with its partner, TRAFFIC – the wildlife trade monitoring network – to ensure these commitments are implemented, and threats from trade to these species are removed.


Posted: March 14 2013; Updated April 29 2013
African savanna elephants (Loxodanta africana africana). Two young bulls play fighting in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.
© Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon Enlarge
The oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) is a pelagic shark and can be found in tropical and warm waters around the world. The oceanic whitetip shark is often accompanied by pilot fish (Naucrates ductor) who feed on the shark's leftovers. WWF lists pelagic sharks as a priority species. Kona Coast, Hawaii, Central Pacific Ocean
The oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) is a pelagic shark and can be found in tropical and warm waters around the world. The oceanic whitetip shark is often accompanied by pilot fish (Naucrates ductor) who feed on the shark's leftovers. WWF lists pelagic sharks as a priority species. Kona Coast, Hawaii, Central Pacific Ocean
© naturepl.com/Doug Perrine / WWF Enlarge
Black rhinos (Diceros bicornis); Hluhluwe Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal Province, Republic of South Africa
© Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon Enlarge

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