CITES Protection Plan?

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Is this elephant family in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park better off as a result of the CITES meeting just concluded in Bangkok?

While the sessions certainly generated media coverage of the plight of elephants and other endangered species, will anything change?

The jury is out (see In the News for coverage).

The summation of TRAFFIC, the highly-respected wildlife trade monitoring network, is:  “On elephants, a number of measures were agreed that will improve control of ivory. They included requirements for the compulsory reporting of all ivory stockpiles held by governments on an annual basis, that all ivory seizures of more than 500 kg in weight will be forensically examined to determine their country of origin and for counties to report on measures taken to prevent illegal trade in live captive elephants. In addition, eight countries implicated as having significant involvement in the global illegal ivory trade—China and Thailand as end-use markets, Malaysia, Philippines and Viet Nam as transit countries, and Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as source and exit points in Africa—agreed to to develop action plans to address the illegal flow of ivory along the trade chain.”

Good intentions, great ideas, but focused on the control of ivory once it is already in the market,  be it legal or illegal.  The fact is the elephant family in the photo above is no safer today than it was before the CITES meeting.  The most meaningful and immediate action to help the elephants remains reducing demand for ivory.

May 25 is the deadline for the eight countries to submit their action plans to the Standing Committee of CITES.  Then they will have one year to implement the plans.  Perhaps in mid-2014 the steps taken in Bangkok will produce results. But for now, plans, reports and protocols don’t produce protection.