UN-supported convention adopts stronger controls on wildlife conservation

UN-supported convention adopts stronger controls on wildlife conservation

The two-week conference of countries party to a United Nations-backed wildlife treaty has concluded after adopting decisions that promise to promote conservation through strict protection, trade regulation and sustainable use.

The meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), ended Friday in Santiago, Chile, with agreement to place mahogany on a list that requires each of the mahogany range states to ensure that all exports are sustainable and covered by CITES export permits.

The Secretary-General of CITES, Willem Wijnstekers, said it was highly significant that after 10 years of discussion, the parties to the treaty had finally agreed to regulate trade in Latin American mahogany, which produces extremely valuable timber. "The well-tested control measures developed under CITES will prove invaluable for discouraging illegal trade. This decision will also benefit local and indigenous communities who have lost out to the illegal traders," he said.

Citing the species' declining numbers and the role of international trade in whale shark meat, fins, and liver oil, the conference also listed it and the basking shark, a landmark move since CITES has not traditionally played an important role in global fisheries. The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, measuring up to 20 metres in length and weighing up to 34 tons. The basking shark is highly migratory and is hunted for its meat and fins. Large numbers are also caught and killed accidentally.

The conference also added to its list of endangered animals 26 species of Asian turtles and all 32 seahorse species, and prohibited commercial trade of three rare birds from Central and South America. It also protected a number of threatened species in Madagascar, including the flat-tailed tortoise, various chameleons, a burrowing frog, and the Madagascan orchid. It prohibited commercial trade in the Black Sea population of bottlenose dolphins and stipulated a rigorous regime for controlling any eventual trade in ivory stockpiles.