Mitigated results for wildlife at recent Sochi CITES meeting
While we booked progress on the protection of whales in Japan and several other topics, we also witnessed some disappointing decisions, such as the dissolution of the working group dedicated to the care of confiscated animals and the role of rescue centers. The meeting has registered a record number of participants, with over 700 representatives from more than 80 States and over 100 intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, including Eurogroup for Animals.
A particularly positive outcome of the meeting has been the Committee’s condemnation of Japan’s landing thousands of tonnes of sei whale (the endangered Balaenoptera borealis) meat for primarily commercial purposes, now finally acknowledged as violating the Convention. The Committee agreed that Japan must take immediate action to address this long-standing and large scale practice violating international law. The Standing Committee reserves itself the possibility to recommend the imposing of trade sanctions by the other 182 CITES signatories if the faulty government persist. Eurogroup for Animals felicitates the EU for having strongly supported the adoption of this decision.
The Standing Committee has also presented and supported a good non-binding guidance to Parties for determining whether the infrastructures that host living specimens of Appendix-I species such as elephants and rhinos, are suitably equipped to house and care for them. Even if non-binding, this guidance should make more difficult to justify, for example, the issue of permits for the capture and transport of wild African elephants to zoos or circuses. A great document has been submitted by Burkina Faso and Niger, recommending to limit the trade of live elephants to in situ conservation programmes within their wild natural range, and only when such trade benefits the conservation of the wild populations.
In addition, the CITES Secretariat emphasized the need to continue to ban domestic ivory markets, to effectively regulate online markets, and enforce existing laws.
Disappointingly, the Standing Committee has also decided to not extend the mandate of the working group on management of confiscated live animals that was created during its previous meeting to support Parties on designating and dealing with rescue centres and on appropriately handling and care for confiscated live animals. Several interesting and promising ideas and proposals were debated by the working group, including the development of a list of appropriate rescue centers, further guidance on how Parties might develop constructive working relationships with rescue centres and species-specific experts, and on effective mechanisms to recover the cost of confiscation, custody and disposal of confiscated specimens. These issues deserved additional efforts to finalise an agreement. Instead, Parties decided to dissolve the working group and the CITES Secretariat has been merely requested to collect and make available to Parties the existing information on networks and resources on the management of seized and confiscated live animals.
Finally, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, China, Thailand and the Philippines, some of the world’s worst countries for poaching and illegal trade in ivory, have been allowed to exit the National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) process. This is a key international initiative set up to curb the mass slaughter of elephants and several of the attending NGOs strongly disagreed that these Parties have achieved their national plans on ivory trade, highlighting that important gaps remain in terms of their implementation.
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Ilaria Di Silvestre, Wildlife Programme Leader