Global Trade Rules Against Extinction: A Success? | Knowledge & Environment | DW

The humanity is changing nature at an unprecedented ratethe stocks of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles went according to one WWF report since 1970 by almost 70 percent.

The mass extinction is caused by the destruction of natural habitatsthrough pollution, agriculture, global warming, and the trade in wildlife and plants.

With the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Almost 40,000 animal and plant species are now to be protected with the help of international trade restrictions. It was negotiated in 1973, and almost every country in the world has since joined the agreement. Every three years, government officials meet to discuss existing and new trade restrictions to halt the extinction. At this year’s conference in Panama, the last two weeks have been about the protection of almost 600 animal and plant species.

Particularly threatened by extinction: African forest elephant in the Congo

Trade in ivory remains prohibited

Elephants are among the species with the highest protection status. The international ivory trade has been banned since 1989. Nevertheless, according to the nature conservation organization WWF, poachers illegally kill around 20,000 elephants in Africa every year. Some African countries have so far lacked the resources to prevent this.

Poaching could decimate some elephant populations to the point of extinction. African savannah elephants, for example, are now highly endangered and forest elephants are particularly at risk of extinction. In some regions, their populations have declined by up to 80 percent.

In some areas of southern Africa, however, local elephant populations have also been able to recover, and some countries there are campaigning for the reintroduction of the ivory trade. However, there is unlikely to be a majority for lifting the ivory export ban at this year’s CITES conference in Panama.

The population of broad-horned rhinos in Namibia has also recovered. They may now be traded for conservation purposes in the historical range of Africa. The sale of rhino horns remains banned.

More protection for sharks and rays?

Shark and ray fins are a delicacy for many people, especially in Asia. According to estimates by the FAO, 70 million sharks die every year, the stock is declining sharply due to overfishing and a third of the more than 1200 shark species are threatened with extinction.

In a preliminary decision at the CITES conference, a majority of states voted in favor of protecting over 90 percent of all traded shark and ray species. This affects 54 species of ground sharks, six species of hammerhead sharks and 37 species of guitarfish.

The animals are now to be included in the so-called Appendix II of the species protection agreement. This means that only sharks and rays that have been fished in regions with good stocks can be traded. The respective states are responsible for checking stocks and issuing export permits.

A tiger leaps from the side with raised forepaws against the shoulders of a second tiger

The illegal trade in tiger products is still lucrative: Here a pair of tigers mating in a national park in Rajasthan

Strict trade ban for particularly endangered species

According to the species protection agreement, 1082 animal and plant species are threatened with extinction and are therefore under special protection. These animals include, among other species of monkeys, such as gorillas and chimpanzees, pangolins, pandas, parrots and snakes, chameleons and sea turtles, and endangered plant species such as cacti, cypresses and orchids.

Wild animals and plants with the highest protection status may not be traded commercially. Export and import permits are required to certify the legal origin.

Wild big cats such as leopards, lynxes, lions, jaguars, pumas and tigers have also been given special protection for a long time. In tigers there are according to current WWF study However, there is still a major problem with illegal poaching and smuggling: tiger skins are traded illegally as bed rugs, tiger teeth and bones are sold as magical lucky charms or for the manufacture of medical products. In the illegal trade are noisy WWF study also involved so-called tiger farms, especially in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

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WWF urges states to step up prosecutions for tiger smuggling and poaching. In addition, the animal protection organization is pushing for the closure of illegal wildlife markets and stricter action against tiger farms and is hoping for appropriate resolutions at the species protection conference.

Pangolin armadillos after confiscation in Indonesia

Many smuggled pangolins are confiscated after a raid in Indonesia, as shown here: the meat of the protected species is considered a delicacy

Species protection does not just need trade restrictions

Fishing is the main reason for the extinction of species in the oceans. This can only be stopped with clear trade restrictions.

The Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is also important for flora and fauna on land in order to protect species from extinction. With an export ban, for example, the vicuna in South America could be protected from extinction, it is a small Andean camel species that resembles the alpaca. It was hunted for its fluffy fur and the population dropped to just 10,000 animals. Today there are around 500,000 vicuñas again and the stock is no longer endangered.

However, the most devastating cause of species extinction is the destruction of natural habitats, primarily through deforestation, industrial agriculture with arable toxins, environmental toxins and global warming. So far, the Washington Convention on the Protection of Endangered Species has not been able to stop these forms of threat through trade restrictions.

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