Thursday marked the last day of Sixteenth Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok, Thailand. The 12-day long meetings had their ups and downs. Overall, 55 proposals were accepted, while nine were rejected and eight withdrawn.

Illegal logging of rosewood, Madagascar, pic: Erik Patel (Wikimedia Commons)

One new aspect was the start of a new global network of wildlife enforcement officers, whose aim is to share intelligence and techniques for combating wildlife crimes such as poaching and illegal logging. That’s something, I suppose.

So what other progress was made? Here are some of the highlights.

  • Elephants: Countries will be required to perform DNA tests on large seizures of illegal ivory (500kg or more) in order to better track the trafficking.
  • Rhinoceros: CITES member states have been “requested” to prosecute organized crime involved in the rhino horn trade, to develop community awareness strategies, implement stricter domestic measures and submit samples of seized rhino horns for forensic testing.
  • Big cats: The conference requested states with vulnerable big cat populations to organize seminars to facilitate better anti-poaching efforts. Countries also agreed to study the illegal trade in live cheetahs and rules for leopard trophy hunting were revamped.
  • Sharks: 5 shark species that face extinction due to the growth in popularity of shark fin soup have been allotted protection status – 3 species of hammerhead, the porbeagle shark and the oceanic whitetip.
  • Manta ray: Easy to catch with an extremely slow reproductive cycle, mantas are endangered due to the use of their gill plates in Chinese traditional medicine. Manta rays have been afforded the same protections as the 5 newly protected shark species.
  • Trees: Cross border trade in ebony from Madagascar, and rare species of rosewood from Madagascar, Latin America and Southeast Asia will be restricted.

Read more details on CITES highlights in The Nation (Thailand) and New Zealand Weekly.

The media response so far seems that the trees have made out best at CITES this time. The main destination for Southeast Asian rosewood and ebony from Madagascar is China. The hope is that the new regulations will help curb illegal logging in source countries, which is having catastrophic environmental effects.

From BBC News:

Where Cites really packs a punch is in its ability to impose trade sanctions on any country that over-exports a restricted species. These sanctions would be across the whole range of species regulated by Cites and could prove extremely expensive to offending countries.

It would seem that some progress was made at this year’s CITES. Only time will tell. Naturally we’d like to see the trade of endangered species, whether legal or illegal, to end full stop. But, what did you expect? There is just too much money to be made and too much demand for products that are – let’s face it – either useless as is the case with animal parts for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), ivory knick knacks and shark fin soup; or unnecessary in the case of luxury furniture made from ebony or rosewood.

Cheetahs may have to wait 3 years until the next CITES for protection, pic: Su Neko (Flickr CC)