Secretary-General of CITES briefing at UNIC on Wildlife Trade, Sustainable Tourism and the role of CITES.

On Tuesday 6 June, the Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Mr John Scanlon gave a Diplomatic Briefing on  the role of CITES, as well as the wildlife trade, sustainable tourism and his recent visit to the Pacific, at the UNIC Canberra office.

Mr Scanlon opened the briefing with an overview of CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

He explained that CITES was adopted in 1973 with the intent to protect international trade of species to prevent wildlife and plants from becoming endangered.

There are currently 183 parties, with the United States the first to join in 1975 and Tonga the last country to join in 2016. He also explained how CITES have compliance measures in place which help control legal trade. There have been over one million legal trade transactions reported to CITES.

He expressed his concerns of illegal wildlife trade and the impact it has on the world, particularly in developing countries. He also mentioned that there has been a surge in illegal trade particularly in Rosewood, and Pangolins and that illegal trade is affecting 50% of world heritage sites. Thirteen sites are on the endangered list due to poaching.

Mr Scanlon added that the African Elephant and Rhino are becoming drastically closer to extinction due to ivory poaching, and  also as a consequence transnational gangs put communities into poverty by exhausting natural resources –  impacts sustainable tourism.

“Transnational gangs have no regard for people or life,” Mr Scanlon said as he spoke of his recent visit to Thailand, where park rangers and locals were being killed by gangs who were illegally harvesting Siamese Rosewood.

Mr Scanlon is urging governments to take action on transnational gangs, as natural resources and wildlife can build great tourism for local communities. In many developing countries sustainable tourism has generated wealth and employment within local communities.

He explained how hundreds of people would travel to Rwanda to see the Mountain Gorilla and to the Pacific to see the beautiful tropical reefs and sharks.

He described to his recent visit to Northern Kenya where locals saw a decline in poaching due to sustainable tourism. One of the villagers stating, “wildlife is our development path”.

Shortly after speaking of sustainable tourism the briefing was open to the floor for questions and answers. Many people were interested in learning more about the illegal wildlife trade and what strategies CITES has in place to prevent illegal trade.

Mr Scanlon responded by explaining CITES works with a number of organisations including Interpol and the World Bank to help countries deal with transnational gangs.

He said that CITES encourages governments to  implement stricter law enforcement on people found guilty of illegal trade. China and Singapore have recently been instrumental in imprisoning wildlife traffickers.

Mr Scanlon concluded the briefing by stating that “protecting wildlife is all about people”.
To invest in wildlife you need to invest in people within the local communities. Otherwise the investors can be seen as being just as bad as the transnational gangs, only wanting to make a profit.

For more information on CITES