Ivory and Plants at CITES

Of the 42 proposals for amendment of Appendices I and II of CITES, those focusing on eight shark species, the iconic blue fin tuna, and downgrading the protection of the African elephant, a proposal submitted by the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia, are set to be the most contentious during the two weeks of deliberations. This proposal claims that African elephant populations are secure but largely ignores that poaching is a significant problem that threatens populations, which have dropped severely from 1.3 mil in the 1970s to about 500,000 today.

A total of 11,678kg of ivory seized in 2009 is reported to have originated from Tanzania while an estimated 50 elephants are killed monthly in Selous. A 2007 study identified Zambia as the source of an illegal shipment of 6,500kg of tusks and hankos. Both countries are seeking approval to sell government-owned ivory stocks that have accumulated over the years. Tanzania holds nearly 90 tons of stockpile, and Zambia just over 21 tons. Many countries and conservationists appose the proposal believing that lifting the ban will encourage increased poaching and thus further threaten the long term survival of the species.

Two of the proposals are from South Africa for the deletion off CITES of the endemic Marsh Rose and Swartland Sugarbush based on no international trade recorded since 1981. The Marsh Rose was once heavily collected as a cut flower but now harvesting from the wild is illegal, while the Swartland Sugarbush is threatened by habitat loss, invasive species and fungal disease. There is, however, concern that deletion will result in the species’ moving to a lower level of protection under the South African domestic law.

(I have not being able to speak to a South African delegate yet to determine their position on the proposed species relevant to South Africa, namely the elephant, and sharks in particular but presented my questions in writing today and will blog tomorrow with their answers.)

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