CITES CoP16: March 5, 2013

Polar Bear -CITES image

Polar Bear -CITES image

As of this morning, 134 countries have been credential  – which means 134 counties can vote on proposals, but the number may rise as more delegates arrive.

Committee I: The day started with an Extraordinary Plenary Session for a very contentious issue: the silent vote.  After an unfocused and unproductive discussion, the matter was referred to a Working Group.

This morning, I met John Emily, delegate from Uganda, who  is especially interested in the elephant and shark proposals. I met many longtime friends today including Dr. Ron Orenstein (this is 11th CoP) and Dr. Moustafa Fouda of the Egypt delegation. In 2010, Ralph Collier and I worked with Dr. Fouda at Sharm-el-Sheik to identify causal  factors in a series of shark attacks at the resort city.

Side events today included ICCWC – First Global Meeting of the Wildlife Enforcement Networks; South Africa on Rhino Conservation; and the Google Impact Award: DNA Barcoding Pilot Project of the Wildlife Enforcement Networks. In Committee II, the illegal wildlife trade was also discussed, and this evening the Species Survival Network (SSN) and FREELAND Thailand presented awards to rangers  who had done exceptional work in combating the illegal trade in wildlife.

Of interest, too, was an event sponsored by the Russian Federation that focused on the  upcoming proposal to ‘up list’ the polar bear from Appendix II to Appendix I. Of the word’s 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears, about 15,000 live in Canada -- the only country that allows polar bears to be killed for global trade in their skins and parts. As the numbers of polar bears have decreased, the price of their skins has skyrocketed. “Four years ago, we were lucky to get $1,000 for a seven-foot polar bear,” said Frank Pokiak, chairman of the Inuvialuit Games Council in northwestern Canada. “Now, you can sell that seven-foot polar bear for between $3,000 and $4,000.”  In the last two years, raw, untreated polar bear skins have gone up by over 200 percent, according to Dag Larsen, a Toronto broker scouting furs for clients in Greece, Russia and Norway. Those high prices have led to an increase in poaching of polar bears in Russia.

 Back in 2005, the IUCN reclassified the polar bear from “Least Concern” to one of the threatened categories. According to the US Geological Survey, we will lose more than 2/3rds of the world’s polar bears by 2050. Canada, no surprise, is against the proposal to uplist polar bears, even though indigenous subsistence hunting would not be  affected by eliminating international trade under CITES....