IFAW calls for more cooperation between NGOs as delegates gather for 16th CITES conference
On the eve of the 16th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok, IFAW is urging conservation NGOs to come together to discuss how they can improve the way they coordinate with each other to protect animals on the ground.
“There are now more than 50 NGOs involved in the CITES community and their role is more important than ever, especially when they work together,” says Azzedine Downes, CEO and President of IFAW and head of IFAW’s CITES delegation.
“The job of protecting elephants, for example, is bigger than any one NGO or member state and cooperation between all those involved in protecting animals on the ground is vital to achieving meaningful future success. Consequently, I believe a meeting of all the relevant CEOs to explore how we can improve the way we cooperate and work together to make progress on this issue would be a valuable way forward. “
“There are a number of key proposals on this year’s agenda and we are urging the Parties to bear in mind that effective, strict implementation needs to be the priority, and decision-making regarding key definitional and technical issues needs to be based on the precautionary principle and an aggressive pursuit of species conservation,” added Azzedine.
Polar bears – the poster child of climate change – will be discussed at this Conference. There are now only 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears left in the wild living in Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and the United States. Leading polar bear scientists believe that two-thirds of the world’s polar bear populations will be lost by mid-century because of habitat loss due to climate change.
“Polar Bear populations have been devastated so we must take each and every action we can to save them,” said IFAW’s Jeff Flocken. “They clearly meet the criteria for an uplisting to Appendix I of CITES. To vote no to the United States’ proposal is to vote ‘No’ to polar bears and to hasten the demise of this remarkable animal.”
Three years ago CITES launched the African Elephant Action Plan, a combined strategy aimed at tackling the crisis facing the African elephant in a coordinated way. The strategy sets out a series of priorities and objectives – the most important of which is to "reduce illegal killing of elephants and illegal trade in elephant products".
“There are a number of proposals on the agenda this year relating to the AEAP and we will be strongly supporting moves that will facilitate the effective implementation of the Plan and, therefore bring about effective law enforcement to crackdown on elephant poaching,” says IFAW’s Jason Bell. “We are also urging more countries to donate to the African Elephant Fund to pay for the Plan’s implementation.”
Another key issue to be discussed at this year’s Conference will be the future of several shark species under severe threat from ‘finning’ – a practice which involves the fin being cut off and used to make soup while the remainder of the body is thrown back to the sea dead or alive – and overfishing.
“As many as 100 million sharks of all species are now caught every year thanks to ‘finning’ and overfishing,” said Dr Ralph (Perry) Sonntag. “Many have their fins cut off before being cruelly thrown back to sea dead or alive. Consequently, some shark species have now declined by 80% and others have virtually disappeared.”
“We are urging the Parties to recognise the plight of several shark and ray species and to include them in Appendix II of CITES to help stop the dramatic decline in their populations and ensure that more accurate data on their plight is collected.”