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Day Two of Will Travers' Report from Geneva – CITES Standing Committee

Published 07/07/09

We’ve spent a long day wading through technical administrative matters, but I think we have been winning more than we are losing so far. Every bit of forward progress helps.

There is a swirl of activity out in the corridors — documents being worked over; preliminary deals being struck. This is hugely important now, as elephants and the international ivory trade are slated for consideration first thing Wednesday morning.

Delegates in attendance were treated to additional side-event presentations about tigers, electronic permits, and, of particular interest to many conservationists, the primate trade and wildlife law enforcement in Egypt. This North African nation has been implicated as a significant trade route for great apes out of Africa to the Middle East. Dozens of live apes leave through Egypt each year, which suggests that possibly hundreds more are slaughtered to supply the trade.

Sadly, the Egyptian authorities appear to have done little to confront the primate trade. As a result, a recent (March 2009) mission to Egypt by the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) has exposed deeply worrying and frustrating evidence that things have not improved. PASA identified eight facilities that they wished to visit in Egypt, but they were denied access to half of them! In the four they could access, 30% of the great apes they saw were illegally held. The authorities seem to have little grasp on what is wrong and what to do about it.

We hope the Standing Committee will consider taking strong and resolute action to address Egypt's compliance failures and direct Egypt to undertake specific measures to bring the illegal primate trade to an end. Failure to do so should surely result in trade sanctions under CITES.

With Egypt’s role in the great apes trade and elephant ivory both on the official agenda tomorrow, it might be time for the sparks to fly!

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