Conservation Groups Thrown Out of International Elephant/Ivory Debate

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Conservation Groups Thrown Out of International Elephant/Ivory Debate

[Ed. Note: CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Throwing the true wildlife conservationists out of the debate about elephants and ivory is very bad news for elephants all around the world.]

From BornFree USA, August 2011

The move was initiated by the government of Kuwait on behalf of the Asian region and was supported by Botswana, Iran, Kuwait, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica and Norway. The organizations were removed from deliberations concerning elephant conservation, the international trade in ivory, and concerns regarding China’s increasing involvement in illegal ivory trade. There is a fear that the decision may set a precedent and that such methods may be used to exclude NGOs and civil society from participating in debates on other issues such as rhino and tiger trade.

Leader in elephant and wildlife conservation Will Travers, CEO of Born Free USA, is shocked at being expelled

Geneva, August 17, 2011 - - In a shocking move that could not have been anticipated, some of the world’s leading wildlife conservation organizations were this morning summarily expelled from an international meeting on wildlife conservation in Geneva, Switzerland by a seven to six vote.

The move was initiated by the government of Kuwait on behalf of the Asian region and was supported by Botswana, Iran, Kuwait, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica and Norway. The organizations were removed from deliberations concerning elephant conservation, the international trade in ivory, and concerns regarding China’s increasing involvement in illegal ivory trade. There is a fear that the decision may set a precedent and that such methods may be used to exclude NGOs and civil society from participating in debates on other issues such as rhino and tiger trade.

The measure was approved at the 61st Standing Committee meeting of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), despite the strong objections of the UK and Kenya. Democratic Republic of Congo, Bulgaria, Ukraine, United States of America and Australia also voted against the action in an effort to support transparency and public participation. A simple majority in favor meant that the Species Survival Network (SSN), Born Free Foundation, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society International, Environmental Investigation Agency, Elephant Family, World Wildlife Fund, and numerous others - -organizations with decades of experience working on the frontline of wildlife conservation and representing tens of millions of members of the public from around the world - - now sit in the lobby of the CIGC (Centre International de Conférences Genève) unable to assist and participate in debates on which the future of wild elephants may depend.

Will Travers, President of the SSN and CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation said, “I am almost lost for words. This is a terrible precedent and jeopardizes the effective conservation of not only elephants but potentially many other species if we are prevented from participating in other debates. The SSN, together with the American delegation nearly a decade ago successfully championed the participation of civil society representatives in Standing Committee meetings which, until this morning have been as open and transparent as possible, in line with UN principles. That achievement, on behalf of the citizens of the world, is now in jeopardy. Clearly, there is a coordinated initiative by some Parties to stifle open debate. This simply must not be allowed to happen.”

Conservation organizations of all persuasions have played an active and positive role in helping CITES achieve meaningful and positive results for species that are or may be threatened by international trade. In addition, thanks to the generosity of the general public, they contribute tens of millions of dollars each year to conservation efforts in some of the world’s most vulnerable places.

Travers concluded, “This is a bleak day for principles that we all should hold dear - the principles of openness, transparency, accountability and responsibility. It is imperative that CITES, a Treaty to which more than 175 countries subscribe, addresses this matter as a high priority and ensures and enshrines the participation of individuals, organizations and experts who have only one thing in common, their desire to ensure the long-term, sustainable survival of life on earth.”

The plight facing elephants

In 2009, over 20 tonnes of ivory was seized and countries have started to report localized extinctions of very vulnerable elephant populations. Since Standing Committee last met in March 2010, over 23 tonnes of ivory have been seized by customs and police agencies worldwide and so far this year at least 11.5 tonnes have been seized. More at www.bloodyivory.org

SSN

The Species Survival Network (SSN), founded in 1992, is an international coalition of over eighty non-governmental organizations (NGOs) committed to the promotion, enhancement, and strict enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Through scientific and legal research, education and advocacy, the SSN is working to prevent over-exploitation of animals and plants due to international trade. www.ssn.org

Born Free USA

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free’s Primate Sanctuary in Texas is home to more than 500 primates rescued from laboratories, roadside zoos, and private possession. Born Free USA brings to America the message of “compassionate conservation” -- the vision of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son Will Travers, now CEO of both organizations. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at: www.bornfreeusa.org; twitter http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; Facebook http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

CITES

The international trade in wild animals and plants is worth billions of dollars every year. Levels of exploitation and rates of wild capture can have a serious detrimental impact on the future survival of thousands of animal and plant species across the globe. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) is an international agreement between Governments, which provides varying levels of protection for species that are or may be in danger of extinction as a result of the impact of international trade. www.cites.org