CITES CoP16: March 12, 2013

Captive gorilla in Pata Zoo

Captive gorilla in Pata Zoo

After breakfast, Ian Redmond and Helen Thirlway (International Primate Protection League) were off to Pata Zoo. The zoo, owned by a former wildlife trader,  is in the top two floors of a shopping center in Bangkok and displays a gorilla, chimpanzees,  orangutan and other species. Helen said she will send photos to me.

As usual, business is non-stop at the CoP. There are symposiums in the four meeting rooms, proposals to list species on CITES Appendices are being debated and voted upon in Committee 1, and Working Documents are being discussed and tweaked in Committee II.

Today, in Committee I, the proposals on aquatic species continued:

Proposal 47. Colombia proposed the Manzana ray, Paratrygon aiereba, for inclusion in Appendix II .Removal of specimens from the wild is threatening the species. Some, including Ireland, felt an Appendix III listing was more appropriate for the species. The vote was 51 in favor, 51 opposed, and 19 abstentions. The proposal was rejected.

Proposal 48. Colombia proposed the Ocellate river stingray, Potamotrygon mototo, and the Rosette river stingray, Potamotrygon schroederi. The illegal trade threatens populations. Colombia exported more than 500,000 freshwater stingrays 1995-2012. Brazil exported more than 26,000 in 2003-2005. There were 55 votes in favor, 52 opposed and 25 abstentions. The proposal was rejected.

Then the Chair moved to the proposals on the butterfly and plants, all of which were approved.

Meeting Room 1. Wildlife crime is a major topic at CITES. It is becoming increasingly transnational, organized and sophisticated. The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), a collaborative effort of 5 intergovernmental organizations, hosted a symposium. ICCWC brings coordinated support to wildlife law enforcement agencies, enabling formidable and coordinated responses. With their combined experience, technical capacity, communication channels and field networks, they develop programs to raise awareness of wildlife crime, build the capacity of enforcement organizations, and promote coordinated action to reduce crime. They have also developed a toolkit to assist Member States in combating wildlife crime. Partners include CITES, INTERPOL, The World Bank, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the World Customs Organization.

After meetings with Dr. Fabio Hazin from Brazil, and Alex Antoniou, I headed to Committee II.

Committee II: Illegal rhino horn has been entering the illicit market using exemptions such as personal household effects, then re-exported. A draft decision from the Working Group on rhino horn defines re-export exemptions such as “personal household effects” and urges all Parties to restrict re-exports of horn, except for exceptional circumstances such as trade between museums. The Environmental Investigation Agency had called for the US government to institute a trade ban on Vietnam due to the rhino horn trade using the Pelly Amendment. The Pelly Amendment allows for introduction of trade sanctions against a country that fails to comply with decisions of UN treaties such as CITES even if the offense does not occur in the USA. Penalties for illegal wildlife traders vary wildly. In Mozambique poaching a rhino is viewed as a misdemeanor, while recently a South African court imposed a 40-year sentence for the same crime. Penalties are also species-dependent. In China, poaching a tiger carries the death sentence. The total population of China’s four tiger subspecies (Amur, South China, Indochinese and Bengal) is 40 to 50.

Working groups reported on the humphead wrasse, toothfish, sea cucumbers, and many other species. Elephants and the ivory trade were high on the agenda. DNA from ivory seizures can identify its source, and Kenya called for identification of ivory seizures to begin immediately. The Elephant Trade Information System requested heavy trade sanctions on 8 countries: China, Kenya, Malaysia, Philippines, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda and Vietnam. The slaughter of African elephants has doubled in the past 10 years, ivory seizures have tripled in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam are conduits for smuggled ivory destined for Thailand and China.

By the time Committee II finally broke up (the translators went home), and the US Embassy briefing concluded, my head was ready to explode.