By Dina Fine Maron & Rachel Fobar, National Geographic
Every three years, there’s a global meeting to talk about the international wildlife trade—worth billions of dollars annually. At issue is an overarching question: How to balance this international commerce—which includes exotic pets, furs, and timber—without driving species to extinction.
The meetings are convened by the members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty enacted in 1975. (Learn more about the treaty here: CITES, explained.)
Among the matters the 183 members will address at the latest meeting—which runs from August 17 through August 28 in Geneva, Switzerland—are the future of the ivory trade, illegal killings of rhinos and the rhino horn trade, management of African elephant populations, and the booming exotic pet business.
Wildlife Watch will be closely tracking the conference. Find our stories from CITES here and read briefs below on this regularly updated news ticker. You can also follow our tweets at @Dina_Maron and @rfobar and @Rachael_Bale.
August 18—Export of Live, Wild-Caught Elephants
In a surprise early vote, parties voted in committee to amend a resolution to limit the trade in live, wild-caught African elephants to range countries only. This issue has received international attention following the shipment of young elephants from Zimbabwe to China in 2015 and from eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) to U.S. zoos in 2016.
Zimbabwe, the U.S., and the European Union spoke against the move. “Live sales are part of our management tools,” the Zimbabwe delegate said, and those sales raise funds for conservation.
Kenya, Niger, and Burkina Faso spoke in support of it. “We all agree these are intelligent creatures with complex social links,” the Burkina Faso delegate said of elephants, arguing that they cannot thrive in captivity.
The European Union, which acts as a bloc but has 28 individual votes, asked for the vote to be postponed, but the chair rejected the call.
There were 46 yes votes and 18 no votes, with the European Union neither voting nor abstaining. Had they voted no, the resolution would not have passed. The proposal must now be confirmed or rejected at the plenary, which comes at the end of the Conference of Parties (CoP) and is where all appendix change proposals, resolutions, and decisions passed in committee are officially adopted.
While many elephant campaigners were pleased at the show of support, they are concerned that the debate could be reopened at the plenary and that the EU parties would vote no, reversing today’s approval.
– Rachael Bale
August 16—Setting the Scene
What is CITES?
What happens when countries break the CITES rules?
Should endangered rosewood be made available to makers of musical instruments?
Will this shy lizard get CITES protection?
Otters are now popular exotic pets. Some nations want to prohibit international trade in certain species
– Dina Fine Maron