Delegates at the ongoing 15th Conference of the Parties of CITES have been urged to reflect on the world’s rapidly disappearing biodiversity and to make decisions based on the precautionary approach, which protects species for the future rather than for short-term profits.
“Parties to CITES have a heavy responsibility. With species disappearing from our planet daily – CITES member-states can and must make a difference,” International Animal Welfare (IFAW) delegation head Azzedine Downes said at the conference.
“In 2010, we must return to the true purpose of the convention and that is to protect species of conservation concern from over-exploitation with strict adherence to the precautionary approach,” Downes added.
IFAW is calling on countries to support a proposal submitted by Sweden on behalf of the EU member-states that would prohibit breeding of tigers for commercial trade of their parts and products.
The group observed that this year being the Chinese year of tiger, parties have the opportunity to help protect wild tigers for future generations.
“China showed great leadership in implementing a domestic ban on the trade in tiger bone in 1993 complementing the international ban on the trade in tigers, a CITES Appendix I species,” IFAW’s Grace Ge Gabriel said.
Gabriel added that despite the ban, the illegal trade in tiger parts is thriving in anticipation of a re-opening of a legal market. “This illegal trade is driving the already depleted population of fewer than 3,500 wild tigers ever closer to extinction.”
Recent investigations in China have found an increase in the illegal sale of products claiming to contain tiger parts from tiger farms, both online and in stores.
While there are fewer than 50 wild tigers left in China, tiger farms collectively have over 6,000 tigers and boast an annual reproduction rate of 800.
Operated also as safari parks for tourists, these tiger farms openly sell products such as tiger bone wine as health tonics.
“Any reduction of demand for tiger parts in China that has resulted from the government’s trade ban is undermined by this illegal trade. These tiger farming businessmen are cultivating a new demand for dead tigers, fuelling the illegal trade in wildlife and stimulating the poaching of wild tigers,” Gabriel added.
IFAW has opposed the proposal submitted by Tanzania and Zambia seeking permission for a one-off sale of 112 tons of ivory, an action which IFAW claimed was contrary to the nine-year moratorium on further trade in ivory agreed upon by member-states in the last CITES conference in 2007.
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