(BANGKOK, THAILAND) – Despite incredibly hard work and determined efforts of persuasion, the United States and its allies, including Russia, were unsuccessful in attempts to increase protection for one of the world’s most iconic species, the polar bear, at the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties to CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora).
Will Travers, President of SSN, said: “Clearly CITES was unwilling to accept its responsibility to help solve the problems facing polar bears today, particularly the commercial trade in polar bear skins. I consider this to be a serious dereliction of duty and a failure in the Parties’ obligations to this species.”
Although many delegates recognised that climate change represents the single greatest threat to the survival of the fewer than 25,000 polar bears that live in the Arctic, they also recognised that international trade in polar bear products, especially their skins for luxury fur rugs, was a matter of serious concern and one that CITES should have acted on.
Teresa Telecky, Ph.D., Director of Wildlife at Humane Society International, a member of the Species Survival Network, said: “Polar bears are being driven to extinction and must be protected from other threats such as international commercial trade. HSI is supremely disappointed that so many CITES Parties ignored the clear scientific evidence that justifies an uplisting of the species to Appendix I.”
It is estimated that the body parts of nearly 400 polar bears enter trade each year from Canada and of this more than 60% are skins for commercial trade, driven by high prices paid by buyers in Japan and Europe.
The Proposal to transfer the polar bear from CITES Appendix II (which permits controlled commercial trade) to Appendix I, banning international commercial transactions, was put forward by the United States, importantly, with the support of the Russia.