THE HAGUE—The Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) took initial but tentative steps today to address Peru’s ongoing failure to comply with the Convention in protecting mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and ensuring the long-term viability of the species. The Standing Committee decided not to impose the strong international sanctions that had been advocated by many government delegates and nongovernmental observers, and accepted Peru’s agreement to reduce its annual export quota.
Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation and Chairman of the Species Survival Network (SSN), stated, “This is an issue that affects the well-being of the most vulnerable people in the Amazon; if CITES Parties really care about the livelihoods of indigenous people, protecting forests is a vital place to start.” During the debate on the floor of the Standing Committee, Alberto Pizango, president of an indigenous people’s association in Peru (AIDESEP), spoke passionately about the need to protect indigenous communities from illegal loggers.
Representatives of the SSN Timber Working Group, a global coalition of wildlife experts participating in the meeting, agreed that action needed to be taken, but concluded that the decision did not go far enough. The Group has long hoped that Peru would exhibit greater political will at the highest levels of government to verify the legality of all timber exports from the country.
Kris Genovese, Associate International Counsel for Defenders of Wildlife and Chair of the Timber Working Group, was concerned by the decision. “Peru has agreed to reduce its 2007 export quota by nearly two-thirds, and agreed to allow sale only from concessions operating legally,” Genovese noted. “However, the Committee approved a mechanism to increase mahogany exports if governmental verifications show better domestic logging management. What will the Standing Committee do if Peru once again fails to live up to its obligations? We hope they have not just approved a loophole big enough to drive a logging truck through.”
Five years after bigleaf mahogany was included in the CITES Appendices, triggering global trade regulations on mahogany in international commerce, the volume of mahogany leaving Peru clearly violates the requirements governing export. For instance, Peru’s Scientific Authority concluded that no more than 1,200 trees could be felled sustainably in 2007. In fact, more than five times that number—between 5,600 and 7,100 trees—would have to be cut to fulfill Peru’s original export quota.
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