Commentary by Will Travers, SSN President
July 1, 2005 marks the 30th
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The treaty is as relevant today as it
when it first entered into force in 1975. Then, as now, global commerce
in wild animals and plants threatens wild populations. CITES
appropriately recognizes that "wild fauna and flora in their many
beautiful and varied forms are an irreplacable part of the natural
systems of the earth which must be protected for this and the
generations to come." These important words continue to guide the
Convention's work today, and presumably will continue to do so well
into the future.
The Convention has grown from 21 to 167 Parties and is widely regarded
as one of the most important conservations treaties in the world. The
breadth of its membership is met by the breadth of the problem CITES
Parties face-preventing imperiled species across the globe from
decimation through international trade.
Currently, various degrees of CITES trade controls apply to over 33,000
species of wild animals and plants listed on the Appendices. While the
importance of trade controls for such well-known endangered species as
tigers or great apes are largely undisputed, through global cooperation
CITES affords protection to many lesser-known species of animal and
plant such as the elusive fossa, the Chinese crocodile lizard, the
quetzal and the monkey puzzle tree.
While Governments have the responsibility for enforcement and
implementation and regularly vote on the level of protection accorded
to individual species, as world citizens we have the responsibility to
ensure that our elected representatives receive the assistance,
information and, where necessary, the critical evaluation necessary to
ensure they make the best decisions for wildlife. It is also vital to
educate the public so that they understand their individual role in
protecting wildlife from over-exploitation through the consumer
purchases they make and the decisions they take in their daily lives.
As a coalition on non-governmental organisations representing millions
of citizens around the world, the SSN has a powerful and influential
role in bringing the voice of the public to the CITES process, and
ensuring that many people in developing countries have a voice in
protecting their indigenous wildlife. Thirty years ago the world's
human population stood at about 3 billion. Today it has more than
doubled. Our cumulative pressure on the environment, natural resources,
wildlife and wild areas is incredible.
CITES will have a vital part to play
deciding whether there is a future for wildlife or not. The SSN will do
everything in its power to ensure that through a combination of
passion, professionalism, dedication and determination the existence of
the many species that make up life on earth is not threatened by the
activities of the dominant species- our own.
Views from SSN
"Governments and their
surely changed a lot in the past three decades, but we're pleased that
the CITES commitment to wildlife has never wavered in all these years.
It's a true testament to the importance of the Convention."
--Adam Roberts, Born Free USA, Washington DC, USA
"At the occasion of the 30th
of the CITES Convention, we would like to congratulate the Secretariat
for the Convention's achievements in protecting endangered species
worldwide. We would like to take this opportunity to encourage all
Parties to the Convention to continue their efforts to safeguard wild
animals' lives and welfare, and to ensure that, when trade takes place,
animals are transported, accomodated and taken care of in a way that
guarantees their welfare. On behalf of Eurogroup for Animal
--Véronique Schmit, Eurogroup for Animal Welfare, Brussels,
"In today's reality, life and
the remaining animal and vegetal species would be unthinkable without
CITES, notwithstanding CITES's shortcomings. With CITES, the trading
countries are setting limits to their own frensey of exploitation and
profit, limits that are destined to guarantee continuation of the
species into a far away future. Thank heaven for CITES."
--Vera Weber, Franz Weber Foundation, Lausanne, Switzerland
"In a world where more
wildlife and wild
spaces dangle closer to extinction than ever before, CITES is the only
evidence that once, 30 years ago, the international community paused
long enough to consider what was at stake. Over the next 30 years, the
political commitment to CITES -- and the will to follow through -- will
decide the future for us all."
--Doug Cress, Pan African Sanctuaries Alliance, Los Angeles,
"The International Primate
League has attended every CITES Conference of the Parties since the
1979 Costa Rica meeting. We have formed invaluable links with wildlife
officials from around the world. The problems that CITES seeks to
address are immense - human greed and corruption are so hard to
control. Yet somehow CITES has made a dent in the colossal problem of
wildlife trafficking and contributed to the survival of many species."
--Shirley McGreal, International Primate Protection League,
Summerville, South Carolina, USA
"CITES is among the most effective and
powerful tools available for conservation of endangered species, as it
halted the imminent extinction of many species exploited for
international trade, such as elephants, sea turtles or wild cats.
Urgent candidates for future protection through CITES would include
sharks, tropical timber and many bird species that are unprotected so
--Sandra Altherr, Pro Wildlife, Munich, Germany
"The RSPCA warmly
congratulates the CITES
family on its 30th anniversary, thanks Parties for recognising the
importance of protecting species and in doing so recognises the efforts
of those who have dedicated their lives to the the enforcement of
--Rob Atkinson, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,
Horsham, West Sussex, United Kingdom