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E Environment

Nations meet to tackle the international trade of endangered species

Currently the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, also know as CITIES, is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference started on Saturday (17th) and runs until the 28th of August, with around 180 nations being represented.

The event occurs every three years, aiming to ensure the global trade of wild animals and plants does not lead these species into extinction.

CITIES can ultimately ban trade in some products, while international trade in others may be permitted if numbers of the species, in the wild, are not damaged.

The conference was originally meant to be held in Colombo but was moved to Geneva following a series of terror attacks in the Sri Lankan capital.

In May, a report produced by the UN stated that the natural environment was declining globally at unprecedented levels, with the rate of species extinctions showing accelerations.

There have been many concerns that policymakers, across the globe, are not acting quickly enough to tackle these issues.

Ivonne Higuero, CITIES Secretary-General, stated in her opening speech that “business as usual is no longer an option… The rate of extinction is accelerating.”

The loss of species will be highly damaging to human society, for which we and other species depend on.

Higuero stated that the extinction of species “is not just an environmental issue”, emphasising our dependents on biodiversity to thrive as a society. 

There are 56 proposals on the agenda to be changed, generally strengthening the level of protection among vulnerable species. In addition, some protections may be downgraded if the populations have stabilised or shown increases.

However, officials have said that any decisions will be based on science and not political considerations.

The protection of elephants will be discussed, however, there are opposing proposals being made. Some southern African countries want the restrictions loosened, while others want the ban to go further.

The issue is highly important, with a ban on the international trade of ivory being produced by CITIES in 1989. However, tens of thousands of elephants are still being killed every year for their ivory tusks.

Unusually, it has been proposed to place an extinct species, the woolly mammoth, onto the list of species for which trade is restricted.

Higuero explained: “The fear is that elephant ivory is being traded as if it were mammoth ivory.”

Sharks will also be a talking point on the agenda of the summit, as their populations have seen declines. The decrease in population numbers has largely been driven by the demand for shark fin soup, a traditional delicacy at Chinese celebrations.

Some species are being proposed to be taken off the danger lists, as their populations have been shown to be recovering.

One of which is the vicuña, a relative of the llama, that can provide extremely valuable wool. The prospects of the vicuña have been greatly improved by local communities being involved in their conservation.

“This is definitely a demonstration of how successful you can be when there are issues of humans and wildlife living side by side,” said Ivonne Higuero.

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