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Wildlife Trade Body takes steps to combat illegal trade in tigers, precious timbers, sharks and elephants.

Posted on 10 November 2023

The outcomes were more positive than otherwise, especially with regard to tigers and other Asian big cats, precious timbers from Madagascar and West Africa, sharks, and - to some extent - elephants.

Geneva, 10 November 2023: The week-long CITES Standing Committee closed its 77th session this afternoon in Geneva, having successfully covered a wide range of issues, despite  the heavy agenda. From WWF’s perspectives, the outcomes were more positive than otherwise, especially with regard to tigers and other Asian big cats, precious timbers from Madagascar and West Africa, sharks, and - to some extent - elephants.

The issue of Asian big cats in captivity received long-awaited detailed attention. Captive tiger facilities releasing their animals and their parts and products into trade can complicate law enforcement and perpetuate and stimulate demand that then threatens wild tigers. This year the CITES Secretariat undertook missions to the Czech Republic, Lao PDR, South Africa, Thailand and Viet Nam, and the Committee discussed and agreed both generic and country-specific recommendations. Missions to the US and China are being planned in the coming months. CITES was also requested to develop guidance on how to evaluate the conservation aspects of tiger captive breeding facilities, which will help to ensure any breeding is only for conservation, not commercial purposes.

The Committee also agreed to discuss country specific measures related to Asian big cats across other issues at its next meeting, in February 2025. WWF hopes this will provide much needed focus in delivering CITES measures, which previously have been discussed in general terms only and poorly implemented.

 

On the issue of illegal logging and trade in precious timbers (ebonies, rosewoods and palisanders from Madagascar), the Committee agreed that a technical expert group would have oversight of the conditions regarding domestic use of and trade in stockpiles of these timbers. “While we have yet to see the composition and terms of reference of this group, the Committee’s decision offers reassurance that there will be less likelihood of illegally felled timber leaking into domestic or international trade,” says Dr Colmán Ó Críodáin, the Head of Policy for WWF’s Wildlife Practice. “We appreciate Madagascar’s willingness to agree to this outcome,” he added. 

 

In addition, the Committee took measures to ensure that export of the timber known as kosso (Pterocarpus erinaceus, often used as a substitute for rosewood in furniture manufacture) from West African countries would be both legal and sustainable.

 

New strong evidence of illegal trade in sharks was also noted by the Committee. The oceanic whitetip shark was once one of the most common species of sharks but overfishing, driven by the high value of its fins, has led to it becoming critically endangered, despite the fact that it is subject to retention, storage, transhipment and landing bans in the international waters where it is fished. The Committee agreed to prioritise further research on the fishing of and trade in this species. The Committee also required Ecuador and Peru to take steps to address issues of concern regarding shark fin trade from the former to the latter.

 

The Committee heard updates that estimates of poaching rates of elephants, at least for the major populations in East and Southern Africa, continue to decline and that levels of illegal trade in ivory remain below the peak seen during the last decade. However illegal killing and trafficking remain a threat to wild elephants, complicated by increasing incidence of human-elephant-conflict alongside loss and fragmentation of habitat and drought. Recognising this, the Committee members agreed on action to reinforce the National Ivory Action Plan process that details critical actions to be undertaken by countries most affected by the illicit ivory trade. Countries that are part of the process could face trade sanctions if they fail to make sufficient progress in implementing their plans and addressing poaching and trafficking of elephants.  

 

The Committee also agreed on the importance of facilitating meaningful participation in CITES meetings by Indigenous Peoples and local communities. “While there are practical issues to overcome, the information base and effectiveness of CITES decision-making can only be improved by acknowledging the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, including their right to meaningfully participate in the decision-making processes” said Tamara Leger, Global Policy Coordinator, Wildlife crime and human rights at WWF International

 

Unfortunately, the meeting ran out of time to discuss several topics on the agenda including the need to mainstream gender into CITES processes, though this was later the subject of a side event on the last day of the meeting.

 

Notes to Editors:

 

The 77th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) closed in Geneva today. The Committee is mandated to manage the Convention between the meetings of the Conference of the Parties (CoP), which take place every three years. It meets briefly before the opening and after the close of each CoP, and then twice in the intervening years, each time for a full week. This was the first such meeting since the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP19) in Panama in November of last year. The next meeting of the Standing Committee will take place in Geneva from 6 to 8 February 2025 and the 20th meeting of the Conference of the Parties is expected to take place later that year.

 

For more information, please contact:

 

Marsden Momanyi: mmomanyi@wwfint.org  / Tel: +254 719784872

 
Several hectares of the COMATSA Sud forest corridor are subject to illegal clearing and deforestation activities for the benefit of vanilla cultivation. Vestige of illegal logging activities in the middle of the Protected Area of ​​the COMATSA Sud forest corridor, about 10 km as the crow flies from the village of Ambodivoara, along the Bekona River
The 77th CITES Standing Committee meeting in Geneva had several positive outcomes including on the issue of illegal logging and trade in precious timbers from Madagascar.
© WWF-Madagascar / RAKOTONDRAZAFY A. M. Ny Aina