Incremental Steps Lead to Leap in Wildlife Conservation at 16th CITES Conference

Thursday, 14 March, 2013
Bangkok, Thailand

As the 16th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok comes to a close, IFAW is celebrating an historic CoP that left polar bears in the cold but brought additional protection to an unprecedented number of species. In addition to numerous positive results the tone and level of the discussion, which has been rancorous in the past, was largely constructive.

I’ve noticed two big shifts at this CITES CoP” says Azzedine Downes, CEO and President of IFAW and head of IFAW’s CITES delegation. “First, things are shifting towards the precautionary principle. When in doubt people are choosing conservation. Second, delegates are talking about the first solution-oriented CoP in a long time and IFAW is proud to contribute to that.”

The largest victory for animals at this year’s CoP was likely the three proposals to uplist five shark species. “One of the keys of this victory for shark conservation is that we had strong support from countries in the Arabian Peninsula and West Africa. Years of work by IFAW and other groups to raise awareness on the issue and conduct the research and science on which to make a clear case for regulating the trade in shark fins,” said Dr. Ralf Sonntag, IFAW shark expert.

“IFAW will begin to work immediately to organize workshops to ensure the proper implementation of these new regulations,” said IFAW CEO and President Azzedine Downes.

For elephants developments came in the form of smaller, more incremental improvements such as requiring countries to send samples from large ivory seizures to established forensic analysis facilities. This will help trace the smuggling route of the ivory and track down those responsible.  Ivory consuming nations such as Thailand mall and China are encouraged to engage in consumer awareness campaigns that will educate the public about ivory trade laws and reduce demand for ivory. Ensuring hunting trophies containing elephant ivory cannot be illegally laundered using an exemption to the CITES permit regime for personal and household items as well as delaying the creation of a Decision-making Mechanism to govern future ivory trade until at least CoP17 in 2016.

“These developments will not stop the current poaching crisis that is killing up to 25,000 elephants per year but they will help and they should save some elephants,” says IFAW’s Jason Bell, Elephant Program Director. “We continue to urge more countries to donate to the African Elephant Fund to pay for the Plan’s implementation.” 

The polar bear, as one of the world’s most iconic species, was under particular scrutiny as the bear was proposed for an Appendix I listing effectively banning the international commercial trade. “It is disappointing that the world has chosen to continue trading in endangered polar bears,” said Jeff Flocken, North American Regional Director. “But range states are now thinking about next steps in polar bear protection and unfortunately the situation for polar bears is not going to get any better. IFAW expects to see them back at CITES in the future.”

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime