RTL Today – Endangered species: sharks, turtles, diseases on the agenda of the wildlife trade summit

The trade in shark fins, turtles and other endangered species will come under scrutiny at a global wildlife summit in Panama, starting Monday, which will also focus on the spread of diseases such as Covid-19 .

Conservation experts and representatives from more than 180 nations will meet to consider 52 proposals to change the levels of protection set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

CITES delegates will also take stock of enforcement issues, and vote on new resolutions, such as the increased risk of spreading diseases from animals to humans, which is linked to trafficking and has become a major concern. after the Covid-19 epidemic in 2020. .

CITES, in force since 1975, regulates trade in some 36,000 species of plants and animals and provides mechanisms to help crack down on illegal trade. It sanctions countries that break the rules.

The meeting of the parties to the convention takes place every two or three years.

It is taking place this year in the shadow of two major United Nations conferences with high stakes for the future of the planet and all its inhabitants: the COP27 on climate currently underway in Egypt, and the COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal in December.

At its last meeting in Geneva in 2019, CITES stepped up protections for giraffes and nearly imposed a total ban on sending wild-caught African elephants to zoos.

Delegates also upheld the ban on the sale of ivory in southern Africa and agreed to list 18 species of rays and sharks on Appendix II of CITES, which requires monitoring and regulation of trade.

– ‘Shark extinction crisis’ –

This year, delegates will assess a proposal to regulate trade in requiem sharks, hammerhead sharks and guitar rays.

“It would be a historic moment if these three proposals were adopted: we would go from controlling around 25% of the shark fin trade to more than 90%,” said Ilaria Di Silvestre, head of campaigns for the Union. Union for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Meanwhile, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Luke Warwick warned that “we are in the midst of a very big shark extinction crisis”.

He said sharks, which are vital to the ocean’s ecosystem, are “the second most threatened group of vertebrates on the planet”.

“The trade in shark products – particularly fins, which can be worth around $1,000 a kilogram in East Asian markets – for use in a luxury soup dish of shark fins, is leading to the decline of these ancient predators of the ocean world.”

Sue Lieberman, vice-president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, told AFP that China – a major consumer of shark fin soup – has never voted in favor of a species proposal. CITES navies, but “often implements it after adoption”. “

“I like to say this is the reptile COP,” said Lieberman, who has attended every CITES summit since 1989.

Three species of crocodiles, three species of lizards, various snakes and 12 freshwater turtles are subject to a total trade ban.

“The world’s freshwater turtles are unsustainably and illegally exploited for the pet trade, the collector trade and the food trade in Asia,” Lieberman said.

– Endangered violin wood –

Trade in certain trees will also be considered, with proposals to add African mahogany and certain brightly-flowered trumpet tree species to Appendix II.

Brazil has called for a total ban on trade in Pernambuco wood – which is already protected – alarming musicians around the world as it has been used for centuries as a main source of wood to make bowed instruments such as violins and cello .

TRAFFIC, the scientific advisory body of CITES, recommended rejecting the proposal, which is unlikely to obtain the required two-thirds of the votes.

The Panama meeting, which will run until Nov. 25, is the first to be held since the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Wuhan, China, which many scientists believed originated in bats. before infecting humans.

“CITES is only about international trade, and live wildlife markets, like in Wuhan, of course, are not the purview of international trading companies,” Lieberman said.

“But nevertheless, CITES needs to make a statement…It seems to us that it would be very inappropriate for CITES to hold its first meeting after the pandemic has started, let alone that. So we hope that they will I adopt something.”

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