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For Immediate Release: 03/07/13

Embattled Aquatic Giant Given Lifeline by U.N. Convention

West African Manatee Proposal Passes Overwhelmingly

Born Free USA and the Species Survival Network (SSN) congratulate the overwhelming majority of West African manatee range states for the successful approval of a proposal to increase global protection for the West African manatee. The move came today (March 7) during deliberations at the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok, Thailand.

According to Will Travers, president of SSN and chief executive officer of Born Free USA: “Africa, and indeed the rest of the world’s decision-makers, must unite with full vigor and resolve when the fate of an imperiled species such as the West African manatee is concerned. The West African manatee deserves full protection under CITES.”

Widespread agreement now exists on the precarious survival prospects for the species. It is vulnerable to overexploitation and the wild population is declining due to illegal international trade and high market process. Manatees are targeted in the wild for their meat, skin, bones, genitalia and oil, and for food and traditional medicine.

Mark Simmonds, senior associate marine scientist at Humane Society International, said: “The African manatee has been a largely forgotten species for far too long. Once a common animal of many of the waterways of West Africa, it is now drifting toward extinction with a population of only some 10,000 animals spread across a large part of West Africa. Its range nations have come to CITES to call for help with its conservation. Manatee flesh, oil and organs are increasingly valuable and part of what is urgently needed alongside other conservation actions to protect its habitat is a ban on trade."

Travers added: “The support for saving this species, of which only a fragile 10,000 individual animals remain, is widespread throughout Africa and other regions of the world. The international community and CITES Parties must respect the position of the great majority of West African manatee range states and increase protection before it’s too late.”

The proposal was sponsored by Benin, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Abba Sonko, a top wildlife official in Senegal, said: “We are delighted that so many Parties today voted to help West African manatee range states conserve this fragile but precious species by listing it on CITES Appendix I. We hope that today’s decision to increase protection for our manatees will, with the help of the international community, increase our ability to address the threats faced by manatees, including the impact of commercial trade.”

Species Survival Network (SSN), founded in 1992, is an international coalition of more than 80 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) committed to the promotion, enhancement and strict enforcement of CITES. Through scientific and legal research, education and advocacy, the SSN is working to prevent over-exploitation of animals and plants due to international trade.

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to the United States the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will Travers, now chief executive officer of both organizations. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at www.bornfreeusa.org; on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

Contacts: In Bangkok (Species Survival Network/Born Free USA): Adam Roberts, 087-831-7029 (Bangkok Mobile) / (202) 445-3572 (U.S. Mobile)

In United States (PR/Media contact): Rodi Rosensweig (203) 270-8929, e-mail Rodicompany@earthlink.net

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