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

Published 07/08/09

Now it’s heating up.

Primates.

Yesterday I mentioned the illegal primate trade and the transit routes through Egypt to the Middle East. Since then, noted but controversial filmmaker and conservationist Karl Amman has been thrown out of the meeting while trying to interview the Chinese delegation and CITES Secretary-General on film.

The issue of Egypt’s lack of law enforcement with respect to primates is deeply worrying. I remain unconvinced that Egypt has taken the necessary and urgent steps to stop the illegal primate trade. As a result, an illegal trade in highly endangered and increasingly vulnerable animals that has been known to be going on for many years continues. This trade has a negative impact on species and individuals, but also threatens to reflect unfavourably on the reputation of CITES, its credibility, and its willingness to take effective and resolute action in the face of compelling evidence of illegal trade and lack of compliance.

The Species Survival Network believes that a number of actions must be taken as a matter of urgency. Among them:

  • Instructing the Secretariat to request that CITES Parties not allow trade with Egypt;
  • Testing all primates held in captivity to ascertain their true country of origin;
  • Microchipping all captive great apes to enhance trade controls;
  • Opening all facilities holding great apes to government inspection.

Such measures are long overdue and must be carried out urgently to prevent more suffering, more depletion of wild great ape numbers, and more illicit trade.

Elephants.

The great ivory debate is seemingly endless and tensions run high on all sides.

Today, a number of key documents were discussed including the review of the status of elephants, trade in their parts, and the impact of illegal activity. The Standing Committee importantly rejected the Secretariat’s claim that there is sufficient current information on management of and trade in elephants. Born Free’s position that there must be a substantive and complete review of elephant conservation and ivory trade was upheld by the Committee.

And what about the control of trade in elephant ivory on the ground, in domestic markets? Delegates expressed concern about increases in ivory trade in Ethiopia and elsewhere, but the elephant’s champion — Kenya — offered to assist Ethiopia and other African elephant range States provide evidence of actions they are taking to address any remaining internal control problems.

CITES has previously approved limited sales of stockpiled elephant ivory, provided that one of the conditions of such sale be the investment of profits from the sale into community development and wildlife conservation. I keep asking, where’s the proof? Where’s the money? Millions have gone into the national coffers of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, but there has not yet been a full evaluation of the impact of the sales! But impact is not just about following the cash. It’s also about African elephant range states seeing an increase in elephant poaching since sales went forward. ‘Vigilance’ must be the word of the day.

But the news is never all grim. Delegates warmly embraced Kenya's presentation on the extensive work undertaken to develop the African Elephant Action Plan and the African Elephant Fund — efforts involving all 37 African countries with wild elephant populations. Of course now there is a need for the draft plan to be signed off and for donors to come forward to support all the important projects and initiatives it contains with serious funding. Overall, this last document represents a serious and positive breakthrough in terms of collaboration between elephant range states on a subject that has been fraught with controversy for ages.

As you can probably tell, it was an exhausting and tense day. And we’re only half-way through the meeting. ...

Blogging off,

Will

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