CITES: 58th Standing Committee Meeting

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During the 58th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in Geneva, Switzerland from July 6-10, 2009 the following urgent points will be discussed:

Rhino poaching in southern Africa
Poaching of rhinoceroses and illegal trade in their valuable horns for use in traditional medicine is one of the most serious criminal activities currently facing the Convention. It is also undermining at least 20 years of conservation efforts in southern Africa.

Detected cases of rhinoceros horn smuggling from Africa to Asia reveal that criminal networks are using sophisticated techniques, corruption and abuse of diplomatic immunity to perpetrate their crimes. Poaching of these animals is highly dangerous and, this year alone, several poachers have been killed during exchanges of gunfire with wildlife and parks department patrols.

The Standing Committee decided last year on the establishment of a CITES Rhinoceros Enforcement Task Force, consisting of law enforcement officials from a range of countries, together with representatives of Interpol and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

This year, the Committee will review the recommendations of the task force and consider new measures to protect these animals. Although rhinoceros populations saw an increase in numbers in the 1990s, the recent upsurge in poaching and illegal trade is a serious threat to their survival in some countries. It is estimated that over 200 rhinoceroses have been poached in southern Africa in the past year.

Other issues
The Committee will consider a report on the use of the 15 million USD generated by the sale of 102 tons of stockpiled ivory at the end of last year. Southern African states are reporting that the income generated (3 times the annual budget of the Convention) will be used exclusively for elephant conservation and community development programmes within or adjacent to the elephant ranges. The average price paid was USD 157 per kg, which contrasts sharply with the prices allegedly fetched on the illegal market over the past year (USD 1,800).

Additionally, the Committee will provide guidance on the interpretation of the criteria used to list marine and other species under CITES. This guidance will have a long-standing impact on the proposals that member countries can submit to adjust the rules governing wildlife trade. Countries will vote to accept, reject or modify proposals for amending the CITES rules at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to take place in 2010. Arrangements for the 2010 CITES Conference will be also discussed at the present meeting.

The meeting will finally consider the regional reports on the state of wildlife trade and implementation of CITES rules in Africa, Asia, Central, South America and the Caribbean, Europe, North America and Oceania and the results of a workshop on wildlife policy reviews organized for the 22 member States of the Arab League.

For more information visit the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora website.