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March 25, 2010

CITES Meeting Ends With Improved Protection for Many Species

But protection for polar bears, sharks, coral, tuna denied

DOHA, Qatar — Humane Society International representatives attending the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora meeting that ended Thursday express gratitude at the increased protection for many species that are traded internationally.

"As a result of this meeting, tens of thousands of individual animals that are affected by international trade each year will now be protected," said Teresa Telecky, Ph.D., director of wildlife for Humane Society International. "We are extremely pleased with these results."

Among the species that gained new CITES protection from the international exotic pet trade are four species of critically endangered spiny-tailed iguanas from Honduras and Guatemala, five species of Central American tree frogs, a critically endangered salamander from Iran known as the Kaiser's newt, and a rare rhinoceros beetle from Bolivia.

Proposals from Zambia and Tanzania to reduce CITES protection for their populations of African elephants and to trade in ivory were rejected, as was a proposal from the United States to eliminate CITES protection for the bobcat, of which 50,000 are trapped and their fur exported annually.

CITES Parties approved new actions to protect dwindling wild tiger populations including a renewed call for countries, like China, that allow breeding of tigers for commercial trade in their parts and products, to phase out such activities. The Parties also approved new measures to address drastically declining rhinoceros populations and to curb illegal trade; rhinos are being poached in increasing numbers to supply the illegal trade in their horn. Parties defeated proposals by The Philippines that would have allowed international trade in captive-born birds of 15 threatened and endangered Appendix I bird species (including the yellow-shouldered macaw, the great green macaw, the Moluccan cockatoo and the yellow-crested cockatoo).

In contrast to these victories, opposition from the European Union was the deciding factor in defeat of the United States proposal to list the polar bear on Appendix I, which would have banned international commercial trade in polar bear parts. Currently, about 300 polar bears are killed each year and their parts—particularly skins—traded internationally. Polar bear numbers are predicted to decline by two-thirds in the next 40 years due to global warming, which is melting their sea ice habitat. Trade is exacerbating the impact of global warming on the species.

Opposition by Japan, China and their allies led to the defeat of every proposal to give CITES protection to lucrative marine species including hammerhead sharks, whitetip sharks, porbeagle sharks, spiny dogfish sharks, bluefin tuna, and pink and red corals.

The next CITES meeting will be in Thailand in 2013, when a new slate of species will be considered.

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Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — On the Web at hsi.org.

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