What's the best way to protect endangered species that have commercial uses? Next week, the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) begins in Nairobi. CITES, which was established in 1975, governs sale and trade of endangered plant and animal species around the world.
J&K Hollingsworth, USFWS image
This year, delegates from the hundred and fifty nations that are parties to the treaty will consider proposals to amend the rules governing certain species. Under debate is whether controls on some species should become more strict, and if other trade restrictions should be relaxed to allow limited trading under a permit system.
For instance, proposals are on the table to introduce a total ban on trade in urials, a type of wild Asian sheep, and in coelacanths, a species of primitive fish. At the same time, delegates face proposals to move the vicuna from listing in CITES Appendix I (a total ban on trade) to Appendix II (which allows limited trade.) Changing in listing of the vicuna, advocates say, would allow trade in sweaters made from their wool.
There are two hot-button issues included in the agenda for the meeting. A proposal from Norway and Japan seeks to allow hunting of certain species of whales. Another proposal would allow strictly limited amounts of trade in elephant ivory from Africa. While some African nations credit CITES with helping to control poaching of endangered elephants, some southern African nations are seeking permission to sell ivory from government stockpiles. The stockpiles, which come from ivory from elephants that die due to natural causes or are culled in areas of elephant overpopulation, amount to tens of metric tons. Some critics of the proposal say that any ivory slaes may spur an increase in poaching.
image courtesy Kenya Wildlife Service
What is CITES, and how does it work? Join guest host John Nielsen in this hour for a preview of the meeting, to discuss international trade in ivory products, and to talk about the best approach to conserving African elephant populations.