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CITES: Key Issues for 2013

International wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually and includes hundreds of millions of plants and animals that are traded as pets, ornamental plants and wood products, food, leather, tourist curios, trophies, and medicines.

After habitat destruction, exploitation of wild specimens for trade is a main reason for the decline of global biodiversity. The Convention on International Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is one of the most crucial and effective instruments to counter the depletion of wildlife species for trade.

It accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants that are threatened by overexploitation. With 177 Parties now bound by the Convention, CITES is the largest conservation agreement in existence.

The 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES is March 3–14, 2013, in Bangkok, Thailand. Born Free USA will be there and focus on a number of important issues. Among them:

Elephants ELEPHANTS. Habitat destruction, human-elephant conflict and civil unrest all threaten the African elephant, but nothing compares with the mass slaughter by poachers to supply the ivory trade. In Bangkok, we support efforts to tighten Appendix II agreements so that all countries comply and that there are no more such things as one-off sales of ivory stockpiles.


Manatees MANATEES. Fewer than 10,000 West African manatees remain, mostly due to an appetite for its meat in Sierra Leone, Chad, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea. We will work to have the species receive greater protection by having it reclassified from Appendix II to Appendix I.


Polar Bears POLAR BEARS. Hunting of this declining species has, despite all the worldwide publicity about its plight in the face of global warming, increased dramatically in recent years. The price of its hide has nearly doubled, to more than $12,000 U.S., in five years. A transfer from Appendix II to Appendix I is what we desire, but we fear that gesture may prove too little, too late. Time will tell, and we have to keep trying.


Rhinos RHINOCEROSES. The southern white rhinoceros, whose wild population of about 20,000 is mostly in South Africa, is frequently targeted by poachers. At the CITES meeting, we support a proposal that would close a loophole that has seen rhino horns traded to Vietnam and other nations for commercial purposes.


Sharks SHARKS. The extraordinarily brutal "harvesting" of shark fins, all to satisfy the widespread, boutique appetite for shark fin soup, is placing most of the world's shark populations in great peril. Born Free USA has honed in on this issue since the last CITES gathering in 2010, and will continue that focus in Bangkok by lobbying for Appendix II classification for oceanic whitetips and hammerheads.


Tiger TIGERS. Although tigers are not represented this year in a species listing proposal, they will be a topic discussed under the agenda item Asian big cats. Though widely reported, tigers' plight in the wild — fewer exist free in Asia than in captivity in the United States — is more precarious than ever and unless something is done soon, wild tigers will vanish.


Turtle TURTLES. Food markets, traditional medicine and the international pet trade all are conspiring to place enormous strain on the continued existence of several freshwater turtle species. Unless protections are enacted in Bangkok and enforced worldwide, extinctions are possible if not likely to occur in the coming years.


Coral OTHER SPECIES. The CITES meeting will consider protection for a number of other species in need: reptiles, amphibians, coral and flora (including the Honduras rosewood, shown here). Born Free USA will fight for them all.



Learn more about these and other CITES 2013 animals by reading this overview (PDF) by the Species Survival Network.