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

Published 07/09/09

It’s a good news / bad news day from the conference centre in Geneva. Which do you want first?

The Good News: World Bank representatives in attendance declared on the Committee floor the Bank’s unequivocal opposition to tiger farming. A handful of Chinese businessmen, prospecting on a return of international trade in tiger bones and other body parts, have put significant pressure on the Chinese government to overturn its long ban on tiger trade.

The World Bank’s Keshav Varma, with whom we’ve been working as part of the Global Tiger Initiative, made a strong statement today: “Extinction is irreversible, so prudence and precaution suggest that the risks of legalized farming of tigers for their parts and derivatives are too great a gamble for the world to take. We cannot know for sure if tiger farming will work. And if it does not work the downside risks are just too high — irreversible harm. Having carefully weighed the economic arguments we urge the CITES community to uphold the ban on wild tiger products and for all countries to continue to ban the domestic trade of wild tigers or any commercial exploitation. This is the only safe way to ensure that wild tigers may have a future tomorrow.”

Bravo!

CITES Parties that breed tigers in intensive operations have another 90 days to report back on their activities — including, importantly, their efforts to stop such dangerous operations — unless those operations are “supportive only to conserving wild tigers”. No tigers should be bred in captivity just to trade in their parts!

The Bad News: Zambia confirmed what we have long feared — that three African elephant range States are prepared to petition the 175 Parties to CITES to downlist their elephant populations from Appendix I (highest protection from trade) to Appendix II (commercial trade allowed) next year in Doha, Qatar. Such a move (by Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique most likely) could allow some quantity of ivory to leave those countries legally, putting every African elephant across the continent at risk. Poachers and ivory profiteers would see a bigger market in bloody ivory and try to capitalize on this expanded global market.

There are serious questions about wildlife law enforcement capabilities in these CITES Parties as well as illegal ivory currently leaving their borders. More ivory trade = more dead elephants. We remain convinced that the majority of African elephant range States will be opposed to this move — and hope that their view will prevail.

Tomorrow is the final day of Standing Committee deliberations. I hope the only news to report then is GOOD.

Blogging off,

Will

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