- Title: Sharks, elephants and precious wood in balance at wildlife talks
- Date: 16th August 2019
- Summary: LAIKIPIA, KENYA (FILE - APRIL 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF ELEPHANTS IN RANCH NORTHWEST PROVINCE, SOUTH AFRICA (FILE - SEPTEMBER 20, 2016) (REUTERS) RHINO WALKING GROUP OF RHINOS RHINO WALKING
- Embargoed: 30th August 2019 15:44
- Keywords: endangered species elephant shark ray CITES wildlife protection animal trade
- Location: GENEVA, SWITZERLAND/ LAIKIPIA, TSAVO NATIONAL PARK AND UNKNOWN LOCATION, KENYA/ NORTHWEST PROVINCE, SOUTH AFRICA/ GALAPAGOS, ECUADOR/ SINGAPORE
- City: GENEVA, SWITZERLAND/ LAIKIPIA, TSAVO NATIONAL PARK AND UNKNOWN LOCATION, KENYA/ NORTHWEST PROVINCE, SOUTH AFRICA/ GALAPAGOS, ECUADOR/ SINGAPORE
- Country: Switzerland
- Reuters ID: LVA001ASGX7IF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Threatened elephant, shark and ray populations are expected to be in the centre of debates as the U.N. watchdog on wildlife trade kicks off negotiations in Geneva on Saturday (August 17).
The U.N.'s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES) regulates trade in 36,000 species at risk of extinction, either by banning it or requiring permits to prevent over harvesting. CITES holds its Conference of the Parties to revisit regulations every three years.
Among the 56 proposals the 183 member states will consider and debate in the COP18 from August 17 to August 28 are three contradictory ones on elephants and ivory.
African elephants were first listed as a species of concern by CITES in 1997. A global ban on ivory sales was imposed in 1989 to stem poaching, but CITES allowed Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell stockpiles to Japan in 1999. They were joined by South Africa in 2008 in a sale to China and Japan.
One of the proposals, supported by Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo, urges the transfer of all elephant populations to Appendix I of the Convention, meaning an absolute ban on elephant trade.
Southern African countries -- Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia -- are now seeking to open up trade in ivory again to selected countries and under certain conditions.
NGOs involved in elephant protection warn that authorizing ivory sale would open legal pathways for criminals to sell illegal ivory and would trigger an increase in poaching, as witnessed when sales were allowed in 2008.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare international policy director Matthew Collis, the poaching crisis is still very much alive, with 20,000 elephants killed each year, 55 every day according to estimates.
Trade regulations of 18 shark and ray species are also expected to trigger debate.
Sharks and rays are being overfished for their fins, for soups for instance, with a kilo of dry fins worth up to $1,000.
According to conservation advocates, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed annually, and about 31% of shark and ray species are recognized as threatened with extinction, while only around 17% of international shark trade is regulated.
An unprecedented number of countries have proposed that 18 species of sharks and rays, including six species of giant guitarfishes, 10 species of wedge fishes and two species of mako sharks, be listed on Appendix II, meaning that trade must be sustainable and legal.
Despite consensus on the need for urgent action, opposition is expected during the negotiations, especially from Southeast Asian countries where many rely on wildlife trade for livelihood.
(Production: Marina Depetris)
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