Endangered Species Treaty: At Risk

In October, conservationists and trade representatives descend on Bangkok for one of the most important events in the wildlife calendar, the biennial conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, more commonly known as CITES.

The World Today Published 1 August 2004 Updated 19 October 2020 4 minute READ

Dr Rosalind Reeve

This thirty-year-old treaty has played a vital role in the continuing battle to save endangered species. Testifying earlier this year before a United States congressional sub-committee, the assistant director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ken Stansell, described it as ‘one of the most effective forces in the world today for conservation of fauna and flora’. As chairman of the committee responsible for overseeing CITES between conferences, Stansell is well placed to know. He is also at the centre of a growing controversy that threatens to weaken the treaty, reverse the gains of the last three decades and place the world’s endangered and threatened wildlife at greater risk from trade.

The treaty on endangered species was negotiated when international trade in wildlife was spiralling out of control, driven by consumer demand in northern countries for exotic pets, food, traditional medicines and luxuries such as skins, furs, ivory and hunting trophies.

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