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CITES meeting can provide boost in wildlife crime fight


Geneva, Switzerland (8 January) – With soaring wildlife crime prominent on the international agenda, the upcoming Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) can further boost global efforts to tackle illegal wildlife trade by taking bold decisions on a host of issues during its meeting in Geneva.

"The last CITES Standing Committee meeting was one of the most productive ever and this week's meeting should result in even greater progress as long as the Committee remains as resolute," said Carlos Drews, WWF Director Global Species Programme.

Running from 11-15 January, the 66th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee will be the busiest ever, with a record number of participants and agenda items – including issues related to elephants, rhinos, tigers, and sharks.

With around 30,000 African elephants being poached every year, efforts to tackle the illegal ivory trade will once again be a major focus of the discussions. In particular, the Committee will review progress on the implementation of National Ivory Action Plans by 19 countries and territories that were identified as being of concern with regard to their role in the illegal ivory trade.

"The National Ivory Action Plans are the priority issues related to elephants for WWF at the meeting because their effective implementation would have a huge impact on poaching and ivory trafficking," said Drews, who is leading the WWF delegation. "Some countries, including Thailand, have made significant progress, but it is too early to say that any country has done enough – and some appear to have done very little."

WWF has submitted a list of recommendations to the CITES Standing Committee, including calls for Tanzania and Mozambique to be given clear timetables for the full implementation of their plans, and for Nigeria, Angola and Laos to face penalties for their lack of compliance.

The Committee will discuss the ongoing rhino poaching crisis just days after Namibia announced that it had lost 80 rhinos to poachers in 2015 – up from just 25 the year before. Meanwhile, initial reports indicate over 1,000 rhinos were killed in South Africa for the third year in a row.

"It is time for CITES to adopt the same approach for rhinos that we have with elephants by applying extra pressure on the countries most heavily implicated in the illegal trade," said Colman O Criodain, WWF Wildlife Trade analyst. "Viet Nam and Mozambique should now agree to deadlines for action to tackle rhino horn trafficking and in Viet Nam's case to also reduce demand."

Along with elephants and rhinos, the Standing Committee will discuss topics including corruption's role in wildlife trafficking, regulation of the trade in captive-bred specimens, strengthening national legislation related to protected species, as well as trade in specific species, such as pangolins and cheetahs, and the illegal timber trade from Madagascar.

"The illegal trade in ebonies, rosewoods and palisanders from Madagascar is comparable in value to the ivory trade from mainland Africa," said O Criodain. "Madagascar must take steps to halt this illegal trade or face a trade suspension under CITES."