Citizens from all 180 nations represented at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) will monitor the upcoming deliberations of the CITES Standing Committee in Geneva (July 7 to 11, 2014) where decision-makers and politicians will meet to debate the future of some of the planet’s most threatened species.
According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and acting CEO of Born Free Foundation, “CITES delegates have an amazing opportunity in Geneva to address the issues of endangered species conservation – the startling statistics of the wildlife trade will surely make anyone’s blood run cold.”
Roberts explains, “As many as 50,000 elephants were gunned down for their ivory tusks last year. The horn of a rhinoceros, coveted for its alleged medicinal properties, is fetching $60,000 a kilo on the black-market, leading to unabated slaughter.The demand for tiger body parts is causing population decimation, with just 3,500 remaining in the wild. All of these issues and more require urgent attention from CITES.”
Organized criminal syndicates, money laundering, and corruption mean that tackling the illegal trade in these vulnerable species is highly complex. Ivory’s Curse, a recent report commissioned by Born Free USA, highlights alarming links between government-led militias, terrorist groups, and elephant poaching.
Elephants: “Born Free’s delegation will be calling on CITES to suspend debates about future legalized trade in elephant ivory,” explains Roberts. “Experiments to allow ivory trade in recent years have failed appallingly. Africa’s elephants are worse off today than ever before. I strongly believe this is a direct result of the international community’s failure to maintain a strong and comprehensive ban on any ivory trade. We need proactive measures such as those adopted in the Elephant Protection Initiative; ivory stockpile destruction; investment in enforcement; and we must demand eradication.”
Asian elephants will be in the spotlight at CITES, with calls for action to be taken against the illegal capture and smuggling of wild-caught infant elephants into the “domestic trade” where they are brutally trained before being touted for unsuspecting tourists to ride. There is an urgent call for domestic laws to be strengthened and enforced to prevent the laundering of illegal animals into the legal marketplace.
Cheetahs: Another strong focus for Born Free will be the illegal trade in cheetahs, which are being smuggled live out of the Horn of Africa. Earlier this year, CITES agreed to organize a multi-stakeholder workshop to address this problem, an initiative that Born Free fully supports.
Tigers: When it comes to tiger issues at CITES, the problems are all too clear. Roberts says, “Repeated requests for information from governments regarding the measures being taken to address tiger conservation have resulted in inadequate responses, at best. This has severely hampered further action by CITES, but aside from that it has become patently obvious that tigers captive bred in Thailand, Laos, China, and Vietnam are feeding into the illegal domestic and international trade.”
There are now more than 6,500 tigers in these horrendous “farms,” supplying a market which in turn fuels further poaching of the world’s remaining 3,500 wild tigers. Once again, Born Free will do its utmost to ensure this issue gets priority attention at July’s meeting and that a serious commitment is made, as required, to stockpile destruction and closure of these notorious ‘tiger farms.’
Rhinos: Another pressing issue remains the plight of wild rhinos, victims of high levels of poaching for their horns. In 2013, more than 1,000 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone, and so far this year the deadly total has exceeded 440. While the Standing Committee will be considering a number of measures designed to close existing trade loopholes, many, including Born Free, are calling for a complete ban on all trade, including trophies, and the destruction of rhino horn stockpiles.
“CITES has a mammoth task on its hands, and while talk is good, it is now time for resolute action before it’s too late,” says Will Travers OBE, President of Born Free. “We need to give imperiled species such as rhinos, elephants, tigers, and cheetahs a fighting chance. For some species, the notion that they can, in some way, continue to endure the added pressure of controlled or limited legal trade while numbers continue to plummet is an idea that has lost credibility. The time for experimenting with the exploitation of our natural wildlife heritage is over. CITES is uniquely placed to take a leading role and to act in the best interests of these and many other species, rather than the financial interests of wildlife poachers and profiteers.”
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Born Free USA