CITES CoP16 : March 9, 2013
Today, some delegates assigned by CITES to Working Groups, are working to revise texts of documents for the CoP. CITES has arranged field trips for the rest of us. The choices were a) a visit to a nearby national park (I did this at the 2004 CoP), b) visit a croc farm, or c) visit Ayutthaya and a floating market. I chose Ayutthaya. We were loaded aboard busses for the 40-minute ride out of the city (with a police escort). From 1351 to 1767 A.D., Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam and one of the largest and wealthiest trading cities in the East. We were taken first to the local museum, and then to the extensive and impressive ruins of the ancient city, and a temple. After a brief stop for lunch, we visited a floating market. Stalls and boats lining the waterway offer fruits, food and souvenirs. Visitors could feed or ride elephants too.
In a small covered enclosure near the elephant compound were two massive (uncaged) Bengal tigers resting on a platform. For 400 Bhat (about US$12) you can have your photo taken with the tigers. I was only in the room for a few minutes while a man had his photo taken lying against one tiger, the other tiger’s head in his lap. I would guess, because of their familiarity with humans, those tigers cannot be released into the wild (considering the species, most likely they were captive bred), and money from the photographs goes to feed the tigers, but the whole setup made me uneasy.
Aside from the tigers and the midday heat, the field trip was thoroughly enjoyable and gave me a chance to spend one-on-one time with delegates from Mexico, Germany, Benin and Morocco.
Sharks have a lot of good people fighting for them at CITES: Randall Arauz, head of PRETOMA and delegate from Costs Rica; Dr. Moustafa Fouda of the Egyptian delegation; Sarah Fowler on the German delegation; Species Survival Network which includes Humane Society International, Born Free, Defenders of Wildlife and many other conservation organizations from around the world. The sharks have solid, peer-reviewed science on their side, but are up against hidden agendas, special interests, secret deals and politics.
Alex Antoniou is scheduled to arrive in Bangkok tonight. Alex was SRI's Director of Field Operations for more than a decade while he lived in New Jersey. When a new job took him to Colorado, Alex founded Fins Attached. In addition to being a longtime close friend, Alex is a strong advocate for sharks. Back in 2002, at the CoP in Santiago, Chile, when Dr. Giam Choo Hoo of the sharkfin industry refused to surrender the microphone to SRI for our intervention on behalf of whale sharks, Alex physically lifted Dr. Hoo up and took the mike. SRI made the intervention and the whale was listed on CITES Appendix II.
Michael Aw also called this evening. He will be arriving in Bangkok early Monday morning and coming straight to the CoP. Michael is attending the CoP as a observer from SRI. In addition to being a good friend, Michael is one of the world’s top underwater photographers, publishes Ocean Geographic Magazine, and is an articulate, creative, effective advocate for sharks.