Sue and I on the first day of the conference, looking relaxed and happy, little did we know what was coming our way…the clue was in the title – CITES – T for trade, and trade in animals! not a W for welfare in sight.
As the 17th CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP17) has drawn to a close this is what Born Free Foundation President and CEO had to say in a televised interview which is a must watch!
Here is Will Travers’ closing statement at the conference:
“Thank you Madame Chair
I am speaking on behalf of the 100 member organisations of the Species Survival Network.
Madame Chair, may I also start by congratulating the Honourable Minister and Republic of S Africa for hosting this excellent Conference of the Parties.
I also want to thank all delegates for their hard work, together with the chairs of committees 1 and 2, and for your efforts Madame Chair.
I also want to express our appreciation to the Secretary General and all members of the CITES Secrétariat for keeping us on track and overcoming challenges along the way. And our thanks also go to the excellent translators.
Madame Chair, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect briefly on the outcomes of this conference.
CITES is a continuum where matters sometimes move speedily and sometimes take a long time to reach a conclusion. I recall, for example, that we have been discussing the impact of trade on African Grey Parrots for many, many years but it was at this CoP that Parties eventually agreed to place the species on Appendix 1. In addition, the Parties have acted decisively to include all eight species of pangolin in Appendix 1
CITES has brought its focus to bear in a powerful and significant way by listing in Appendix II the entire genus, over 300 species of Dalbergia, which have been, over a long period, subject to heavy and negative trade.
This demonstrates that sometimes this Convention can react firmly when circumstances demand.
We have also seen proposals that might have made matters worse for some of our most iconic species, rejected.
We have witnessed some lost opportunities that, to many in the outside world, will seem hard to understand. Madame Chair, I was attended CoP 13 in 2004 when a proposal to list African lions on Appendix 1 was withdrawn. That was at a time when the population of wild lions across Africa was probably double what it is today. Now we have perhaps 20,000 wild lions and it seems somewhat bizarre to many that a new lion-listing proposal, presented by so many African Range States, was rejected.
Furthermore, at a CoP where we have rightly confirmed the process for ending the intensive breeding of tigers in captivity, we have reaffirmed the acceptability of the captive breeding and commercial sale of African lion bones into international trade, as a surrogate for tiger bone.
Consistency is vitally important.
As is courage.
The decision by the Government of Botswana to voluntarily treat the largest African elephant population as if they are on Appendix 1 is to be applauded as is the robust way that the Government of the People’s Republic of China has addressed the issue of domestic Ivory markets.
Madame Chair, we must never lose sight of the fact that the decisions made by delegates here have real-world impacts far beyond these conference halls. Whether on wildlife law enforcement, demand control, the survival of species, or the welfare of individual living animals.
And, of course, they may also have an impact on the security of those who risk and sometimes lose their lives protecting the species we care so much about – a thousand Rangers and wardens in the last 10 years.
In conclusion Madame Chair. I have often been asked whether CITES should continue, to which I say a resounding yes. This Convention may not be perfect. It may be complex and challenging. It may be misunderstood. It may not always reflect the desires and aspirations of citizens around the world. But, Madame Chair, it is the only Treaty we, and the animals and plants, have got. Were it not to exist I doubt we could create it anew.
So we must work with it. Support it. Demonstrate its relevance. Strengthen it. And make sure that as far as humanly possible it contributes to ensuring that the amazing array of wild animals and plants that inspire us, and with whom we share our one, single, world, are here for future generations to admire.
Thank you Madame Chair and, on behalf of the SSN, I look forward to seeing many familiar CITES faces at CoP18, which I hope will be hosted for the first time by the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.”
Sue Olsen’s take on it all:
It’s taken a few days to recover since arriving home from the conference and here is Sue Olsen’s (my sister and founder of OAT) words of reflection which sum up all of our views here at OAT.
During the conference (pictured above) unsurprisingly, Sue had some very strong opinions, but luckily I made sure the mic was unplugged so we weren’t kicked out or sent to jail!
“I would like to say how honoured and proud I am to have attended my first CITIES with Will and the amazing Born Free team. I have witnessed first hand the incredible value of BFF and SSN’s participation here and indeed that of many other anti trade organisations.
I has been a huge learning curve personally, and whilst it’s been interesting, I can honestly say it has not been an enjoyable experience. As someone rightly pointed out to me, this is not my spiritual home. If I had my way there would be no trade in animals at all as I believe they are not ours to commoditise. But then I am a bit of a purist and sadly we live in a realistic world.
Of course, this is a trade convention, so it’s all about trade, but the fact that the commodity is animals, and that there is little or no emphasis on welfare, I find very distressing. Wading through the list of thousands of beautiful endangered species, who’s survival and well-being is based purely on their commercial value, I find quite surreal. God help the thousands of other species who aren’t even listed and therefore aren’t protected at all. Begin surrounded by hunting organisations, pet trade organisations, those involved in live animal trade and their body parts, and even consumptive “conservationists”, has been challenging to say the least.
However, what has been truly inspiring, is to see the level of professionalism, dedication, passion and pure tenacity of those opposing trade. It is crucial that the likes of BFF and SSN continue their vital work in this arena and they should be loudly applauded for what they are achieving in an incredibly frustrating, complex and somewhat hostile environment. Thank goodness we have them, for the sake of animals and humanity in general, they are extraordinary. There is a definite consensus that the tides are changing and the veterans believe this was a very successful CoP for those on our side.
And thats a wrap on OAT’s first CITES experience – and what an eye opener it was! A saddened but not disheartened OAT Oke……… Much work to be done, onward and upward!