1 July 2005

Wildlife Treaty Comes of Age -- Cites Celebrates 30 Years of Achievement

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 30 June (UNEP) -- Thirty years ago tomorrow, on 1 July 1975, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) entered into force with a challenging mission:  to bring under regulation the international trade in certain wild animal and plant species so that such trade does not threaten their survival.

“During the past three decades, CITES has proved highly effective in ensuring that human needs remain compatible with wildlife conservation.  It has enabled local communities to benefit from the sustainable use of wildlife, and it has protected animal and plant species that are threatened or endangered by international trade”, said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers.

“I am confident that CITES will build on these successes for many more years to come and will contribute to alleviating poverty and stopping the decline in global biodiversity -- key elements of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals”, he said.

Expanding human populations, economic development, poverty and war are testing the ability of many kinds of animals and plants to survive the modern world.  Globalization is also adding to the pressure as higher levels of international trade and income expand the demand for wildlife and wildlife products.  CITES seeks to ease this pressure by supporting national conservation efforts and ensuring that the international trade in wildlife is sustainable.

While preventing more species from becoming threatened by trade, CITES has also enabled the recovery of species that were already endangered.  Examples of crises transformed into success stories include the South American vicuña (a small member of the camel family) and the Nile crocodile.  The survival of these two species was assured when CITES turned their wool and skins, respectively, into valuable and sustainably managed commodities of benefit to local communities.

CITES’ experience has shown that poor people in rural areas who share the environment with wild animals and plants need to receive a major share of the economic benefits derived from their use.  In cases where this does not happen, wildlife conservation is often undermined when people pursue economic benefits in an environmentally unsustainable manner, for example by converting undeveloped land to agriculture, poaching wildlife and smuggling wildlife products.

Thanks to the effective implementation of CITES by those who harvest, produce, trade, transport, buy and regulate the wildlife species covered by the Convention, new emergency listings of species have become increasingly rare.  Moreover, no CITES-listed species has ever become extinct as a result of trade.

In recent years, CITES’ effectiveness in managing trade in wildlife has been applied to some fish and timber species of high commercial value that were once considered beyond the limits of the Convention.  This trend reflects the growing conviction of many governments that CITES can help to reverse the precarious situation of high-value species and ensure a sustainable supply.

To maintain momentum as it enters its fourth decade, CITES will need to become more effective in boosting national capacities for conserving wildlife and managing sustainable trade.  Regulating wildlife trade at the national level cannot work effectively without an integrated approach incorporating sound wildlife policies, a solid scientific basis and adequate enforcement measures.  To this end, national CITES authorities and enforcement agencies need more political support, appropriate remuneration, focused training and proper equipment.

“While human pressure on the natural environment will only grow in the years to come, the history of CITES confirms that it is possible to reconcile the needs of human beings and wildlife”, said Mr Wijnstekers.  “I am confident that CITES will build on its past achievements to make a significant contribution to the environment and human well-being in the 21st century.”

The CITES secretariat is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Note to journalists:  For more information, contact:  Juan-Carlos Vasquez, tel.:  +41-22-917-8156, mobile:  +41 793786540, e-mail:  juan.vasquez@unep.ch; or Michael Williams, tel.:   +41 79 409-1528, mobile:  +41 22 917-8242, e-mail:  michael.williams@unep.ch.  In New York, contact Jim Sniffen, Information Officer, UNEP, tel.:  +1 212 963-8094/8210; e-mail:  info@nyo.unep.org, website:  www.nyo.unep.org.

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