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Wildlife protection: the good and the bad

G-Online

Conservation

Tiger

Credit: Clipart

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Threatened wildlife on land have a fighting chance against illegal trade, but marine species aren't so fortunate, following the outcome of a world wildlife conference last week.

One hundred and seventy five countries have wrapped up 13 days of discussions for the triennial world Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference, held in Doha, Qatar.

"The debates were very impassioned and they raised very important questions about international trade of wildlife," David Morgan, Chief Scientist for CITES, told G-Online.

During the conference over 40 proposals were put up for review regarding plants and animals traded internationally for their high value. Some of the main achievements of the talks included agreements to stop international trade of animals threatened by the international pet trade - such as the critically endangered Kaiser's newt, and four species of iguana from Central America.

Most proposals for protection for marine species were declined; including for seven out of eight shark species, as well as the European Union (EU) proposal to ban international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

"It's clear from the meeting that economy has triumphed over ecology," said Alexia Wellbelove, of Humane Society International (HSI).

"It's been a sad day for marine conservation at CITES today," Wellbelove said on the concluding day of the conference, "but broadly it is important not to lose sight of some of the positive things that happened here."

Protection remains strong for elephants

"Twice, CITES has allowed stockpiled ivory to be auctioned in the past...and some of these profits are then reinvested into elephant conservation," said Morgan from CITES.

However, international sale of ivory was not re-opened at this meeting, maintaining strong international protection for African elephants.

CEO of the Born Free Foundation and President of the Species Survival Network, Will Travers, commended the decision made by the CITES parties.

He said that "confirming the commercial trade ban on elephant parts and products from Tanzania and Zambia will help ensure that the future of elephants across dozens of range states will not be jeopardised by increased trade."

But Morgan commented that "the African countries are unresolved in their decision...it's an unsatisfactory outcome, the African countries need to work together."

After all, he continued, "the people who live with the elephants every day are the best ones to conserve them."

Asian big cat parley

After lengthy debate, the United Kingdom helped negotiate a deal between countries with remaining tiger populations. It was agreed that intelligence would be shared to help stop criminal networks and organised crime in wildlife trade.

"The agreement reached at CITES between the EU, China and India could see countries treating illegal trade in tiger parts as seriously as arms and drug trafficking," said Wellbelove from HSI.

An international database will be made to tackle illegal trade in tiger, leopard and snow leopard parts. In addition, there was a call-to-action for a meeting of senior police and customs officers before an international tiger summit held later this year in Russia.

"The result for tigers was a welcome relief," said Wellbelove.

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