As CITES Bangkok ends, some success pursuing a better future for wildlife

In the video above, IFAW CEO Azzedine Downes offers some thoughts from the floor of the CITES CoP 16 meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

The 16th CITES CoP has been very successful as we gained more protection for sharks, moved towards more effective action to combat transnational organized wildlife crime, particularly poaching and illicit trade of elephants and rhinos and to increase efforts to control wildlife trade on the internet.

On the other hand we did lose a chance to secure stronger protection for polar bears which, unfortunately, will continue to be hunted to supply needless products for international markets and we could not convince the Parties to support adequate funding to tackle the increase in worldwide demand and consumption of wildlife and wildlife products

When we succeeded to win the required 2/3 majority for protection of sharks last Monday, CITES really took a bite out of shark fin trade. But we knew this decision in Committee I of this conference, would be challenged in Plenary by those countries who still do not want to have better controls and regulations and who do not care about the cruelty involved in shark finning practices.

After some heavy debate, today in plenary, the vast majority of CITES Parties refused to change their former vote and reconfirmed their commitment to improve conservation in the marine environment.

This is a good day, for the oceanic whitetip, the hammerhead and the porbeagle shark, and for the ocean ecosystems as a whole.

Thank you to all those governments who have voted YES in favor of shark conservation, we now are looking forward to assist in implementation!

We regret that we did not gain similar support for the polar bears, which we take as a clear sign that we still need to increase our efforts educating governments to base their decisions on the "precautionary approach" and more respect to wildlife welfare in the future.

On elephants things went pretty well according to our desires given the circumstances in that the important elephant issues discussed, including increased enforcement efforts to combat elephant poaching and illicit ivory trade and the conditions under which ivory trade could be allowed in the future will hopefully not automatically lead to a legal trade in ivory. That indeed would be a disaster for the elephants in Africa and Asia where they are threatened by current poaching levels already.

This conference had a much greater focus on law enforcement and implementation than any previous one. The International Fund for Animal Welfare and INTERPOL launched the Project WEB report, a look at the online ivory trade in Europe, together but there were a number of other organizations that hosted side meetings or trainings in order to improve a country’s ability and desire to tackle wildlife trafficking.

Of course, we must continue to work on governments, and will do so right away, to seek consensus that any ivory trade decision must be postponed until elephant range states successfully implement a plan to protect elephants where they live, in particular to halt the killing of elephants for the illegal trade in ivory. And we continue to urge and assist governments to focus on demand in consumer countries.

A happy day and good reason to be proud about our achievements. What a privilege to be part of the IFAW team!

For more details on species specific issues, download our delegate background briefing documents.


To look back you may also like to visit our CITES campaign page for all the latest updates on IFAW efforts to protect animals.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy