Governments get another chance at CITES to curb illegal and unsustainable wildlife and timber trade

Posted on 06 November 2023

WWF is urging for strong decisions from the CITES Standing Committee which meets in Geneva this week.

Geneva, 6 November 2023: WWF is urging for strong decisions from the CITES Standing Committee which meets in Geneva this week. Important issues that could help combat illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade will be discussed, notably relating to tigers and other big cats, Malagasy precious timbers, elephants, rhinos and the harvest of CITES-listed species in international waters (including sharks). The meeting will also cover the development of a Gender Action Plan, control of zoonotic diseases, enforcement and compliance matters, and participation of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in CITES decision-making processes.

 

WWF urges the Committee to recommend much-needed time bound, country-specific measures to address the illegal tiger trade. TRAFFIC reports a growing trend of captive tigers in trade, reaching around 50% of tigers seized in 2017-2019. Facilities keeping and/or breeding captive tigers where the animals or their parts and products enter trade, so called ‘tiger farms’, can perpetuate or stimulate demand for tigers, thus driving the poaching of wild tigers. CITES missions were undertaken this year to five countries with captive tiger facilities of concern - the Czech Republic, Lao PDR, South Africa, Thailand and Viet Nam. The CITES missions to China, which holds over 6,000 captive tigers, and the US, have yet to take place. 

 

“CITES should set out targeted conservation and enforcement interventions for Parties to implement to address illegal tiger trade. This is because despite long being listed for protection by CITES, poor delivery and reporting on progress by Parties means that wild tigers are still highly threatened by trade,” said Heather Sohl, Tiger Trade Leader for WWF. 

 

“Despite agreement in CITES in 2007 that tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and products, there is still a need for improved management and oversight on the keeping and breeding of captive tigers,” she added.

 

A growing trend in illegal trade in other big cat species is also a matter of considerable concern: the parts and products of lions, leopards and jaguars (often labeled as tiger) are increasingly found in trade. A thriving trade in live cheetahs is also causing concern for their future. WWF is encouraging the Standing Committee to consider the recommendations provided by the newly created CITES Big Cats Task Force which convened its first meeting in April 2023, and recommended  measures to  strengthen law enforcement, improve data and information collection and sharing, reduce demand, enhance collaboration and better control of captive breeding.

 

Timber issues will also loom large at the meeting, including trade in Kosso from West Africa, Indochinese Rosewood from Southeast Asia and, especially, trade in precious Ebonies, Rosewoods and palisanders from Madagascar. Illegal logging and illegal trade in these precious timbers from that country have been a running sore for the past 15 years. Madagascar has indicated that it is no longer seeking to export the timber stockpiles, which have never been audited. However, last year the Standing Committee gave leave for Madagascar to use and trade the timber domestically. 

 

“This granting of permission for domestic trade was premature,” says Dr Colmán Ó Críodáin, Head of Policy for WWF’s Wildlife Practice, “especially since domestic trade in illegally felled timber has been widely documented. However, since Madagascar has not yet commenced domestic trade, there is time for the Committee to rescue the process by setting conditions for the domestic trade, with a view to prevent leakage of timber into international trade, in breach of CITES.”

 

WWF welcomes the new CITES initiative on gender, which will also be discussed at the meeting. “Gender is not just about women,” says Tamara Léger, Global Policy Coordinator, Wildlife crime and human rights at WWF International. “Rather it is about understanding how gender dynamics come into play at all stages of illegal wildlife trade; as well as within responses aimed at tackling illegal wildlife trade. Up until now, there has been little research and understanding in the gender dynamics of illegal wildlife trade. For example, there is strong evidence that a gender-balanced police force is more likely to lead to less violent, negotiation-based approaches to resolving conflict: this learning could be replicated within the ranger workforce to foster more positive relationships between rangers and other community members. 

 

The social and economic structures that promote gender equality are also prerequisites for environmental sustainability, that is: inclusive decision-making and participation, acknowledgement of the positive effects of diversity, an engaged and empowered citizenry, meaningful acknowledgement of universal human rights.” 

 

“WWF looks forward to participating in the meeting,” says Dr Margaret Kinnaird, leader of WWF’s Wildlife Practice. “The Committee has the opportunity to make major progress in efforts against illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade. However, this will only happen if, in particular, it is prepared to call out those countries whose lack of political will, or even complicity, is contributing to such trade.” 

 

---ends---

 

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) opens in Geneva today and runs until Friday. 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 will be the first such meeting since the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP19) in Panama in November of last year.

 

For more information, please contact:

 

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

Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris) female 'T19 Krishna' with juvenile in water, Ranthambhore, India
© naturepl.com / Andy Rouse /WWF