International commercial trade of elephants, whales, tigers and sharks to be voted on at CITES Meeting

Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The Hague, Netherlands
More than 2,500 government representatives from 171 countries will converge in The Hague, Netherlands from June 3-15, 2007 for the 14th meeting of parties to the United Nations-backed Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). CITES is an international agreement between governments whose aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Proposals that would allow for the international commercial trade of elephant ivory are heating up to be the most contentious of the dozens of proposals to be voted on.
 
Kenya and Mali have partnered together in an effort to protect global elephant populations from any legal ivory trade with the submission of a proposal for a 20-year moratorium on all trade in raw or worked ivory, except for non-commercial hunting trophies and (in the case of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa) ivory exports pursuant to the one-off sale of up to 60 tonnes of ivory agreed at the 12th meeting of CITES in 2002. The proposal is supported by Ghana and Togo, along with fourteen countries advocating in favor of the moratorium.  Conservation groups, including IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) support this proposal citing the high level of elephant poaching caused by the trade in ivory.
 
Botswana and Nambia have partnered to submit a proposal that would allow for the unlimited commercial trade in raw ivory for themselves, as well as South Africa and Zimbabwe, to CITES certified “trading partners.” Botswana has also submitted a proposal of its own to allow for the one-off sale of up to 40 tonnes of elephant ivory.
 
Thousands of elephants are estimated to have been killed in the last few years alone to fuel a growing illegal ivory trade market, and experts fear this number will grow should any additional legal trade be allowed. Between August 2005 and 2006, more than 26 tonnes of illegal elephant ivory was seized alone, representing at least 2,500 elephants.  Further, at least a hundred park rangers are killed in the line of duty each year, frequently at the hands of elephant poachers, the latest being the loss of a total seven rangers in East and Central Africa in one week of May 2007.
 
Other key species whose fate could be decided at the CITES meeting include whales, as Japan continues its strategy for the resumption in the commercial hunting and trade; tigers, as China’s few tiger farming owners lobby to legalize their illicit commercial farming operations, and wildlife in general, as pro-trade nations reenergize a decades-long push to weaken CITES’ conservation mandate.
 
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) is the world’s leading international animal welfare organization and has campaigned for decades to protect whales, elephants and other threatened species. IFAW has also participated as observers to CITES meetings for more than a decade, and works with the CITES Secretariat in Geneva to promote the protection of animal species threatened by trade.

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