Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Animal Defenders International at CITES 2002


In November 2002 at the Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) the fate of endangered and threatened animals was decided. The conference took place in Santiago, Chile, and ADI attended.

CITES is an agreement, to which 159 countries are currently signatories, prohibiting or restricting the international trade in species of animals and plants threatened with extinction.

The CITES lists, known as Appendices I, II, III etc., are revised every two-and-a-half years. Appendix I prohibits all commercial trade in some 900 species that are threatened with extinction whilst Appendix II regulates trade in 4,000 animal and 22,000-plus plant species through a system of permits.

When these lists are reviewed, powerful vested interests swing into action to press for reduced protection. Present in Chile were circuses, ivory trade associations, shooting organisations, supporters of whaling, and wildlife traders.

ADI were active on a number issues including elephants and ivory, animals in circuses, turtle farming, and bears. We are part of the an international coalition of over sixty organisations, known as the Species Survival Network (SSN), and as part of this we also distributed information on a wide range of issues from parrots to mahogany. Here are just a few highlights.

One of the hottest issues at this year’s conference was a major push to reopen the ivory trade. Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe all had proposals to not only sell off stock piles of ivory and also, to establish annual quotas for regular sales. They were opposed by Kenya and India advocating greater protection for elephants. ADI argued that any opening of the ivory trade would increase elephant poaching and the lives of wardens in Kenya attempting to protect the elephants would be lost. In the end we secured a partial victory. The requests for annual quotas were defeated outright; one-off conditional stockpile sales were allowed for Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa; Zambia and Zimbabwe’s proposals were both rejected. This is however still a blow for elephants, since it has been shown that even a hint of trade re-opening increases poaching.

Travelling Circuses
In 1996, we rescued every animal from the Akef Egyptian Circus and broke what was believed to be a major animal trafficking ring. The following year we began lobbying at CITES for a series of proposals for “passports” for circus animals to prevent smuggling. These were further outlined in our “Ugliest Show on Earth” report and ADI Chief Executive Jan Creamer subsequently presented a paper on the issue at a CITES committee meeting in Portugal. In 2002, the issue was on the conference agenda, with a proposal from the CITES Secretariat plus a weakened version from the Russian Federation on behalf of the circus industry.

ADI prepared and circulated a briefing paper, spoke to numerous delegates, and attended the Committee Room discussions. The Russian Federation proposal was defeated and a CITES Secretariat proposal adopted. In a significant victory for the ADI this incorporates almost all of our recommendations for circus animal passports (including background details, and details of where the animal has been). Not included is compulsory microchipping - it was felt there were not enough facilities in many countries.

Turtle Farm
The UK government proposed allowing the sale of turtle shells to tourists from a captive breeding operation for Green turtle (chelonia mydas) in the Cayman Islands. The farm already kills turtles for meat, but because these are a CITES Appendix I listed-species international trade is prohibited the farm therefore cannot export or sell to tourists to take home, which would be international trade. The UK, on behalf of the Caymans, claimed that the farmed shells would be specially marked, thus non-marked shells would be illegal.

We raised a series of concerns including: The potential to stimulate illegal trade; the lack of an adequate promotional campaign to differentiate between legal and illegal shells; lack of measures to prevent counterfeiting once “legal” shells were on the market; the source of the founder stock for the farm was not properly accounted for - the Costa Rican government disputed claims that turtles had been legally obtained from its shores. The US was opposed because it would open up an illegal shell problem, via American tourists.

There are also welfare criticisms, including lack of shade for the animals, poor water quality, and high mortality rates (up to 40%). At a UK briefing, the ADI raised these issues and a meeting was arranged with the UK delegation, the scientific authority and farm owners. This failed to allay any fears.

EU representatives told us that EU members would be instructed to support the proposal.

In Committee I the proposal had strong opposition from every other Caribbean country, and from the USA and Israel. The proposal failed to get sufficient votes when the other EU countries changed their position and abstained - proving that lobbying can make a difference.

© Animal Defenders International 2019