CITES is a global trade agreement intended to preserve animal and plant species by regulating trade. It was signed in Washington in 1973 and ratified by Switzerland, which was one of the first member states, in 1975. The various species protected by CITES are divided into three categories or, respectively, Annexes I-III according to the degree of their endangerment. Around 5600 animal species and 30'000 plant species are subject to different protection levels. Depending on where they are listed, the international trade in these species is either prohibited or restricted.
Since the summer of 2015, TIR has devoted intensive work to the subject of poaching and trade in live animals, hunting trophies, and illegally obtained animal products such as ivory, rhino horn, etc. (read here for more on the corresponding efforts by TIR in Kenia and Zimbabwe). Confronting the immense problems relating to animal welfare and species conservation requires not only legal know-how but also strong networking and exchange of information. It was the first time that TIR took part at a CITES conference as an observer. The 66th meeting of the standing committee was a preparation for the member state conference in Johannesburg this coming September (the so-called CoP
) where all member states will be represented and will decide on modifications of the Annexes regarding possible scaling up or downgrading of individual species.
This year's conference focused on subjects such as the breeding of animals in captivity and their living conditions or the trade and conservation of certain species, in particular, of elephants, rhinos, pangolins, Asian big cats, Saiga antelopes, and various shark species. For elephants, the ivory trade is a major threat. The number of animals killed for their tusks has increased dramatically in recent years and yet, despite this, a further opening of the ivory trade is being discussed. Fortunately, due to the alarming scale of the poaching crisis, the standing committee suspended this pending debate last week. The member states will decide on the further procedure during their conference in South Africa this September. The entire conference program can be viewed here
TIR will follow up on the work of the CITES committees and act to ensure that animal welfare is not forgotten next to species conservation. Unlike species conservation, animal welfare focuses on the individual animal and its well-being. The global trade not only affects species conservation but is also a threat to animal welfare, particularly with regard to catching, transporting, and keeping or killing exotic animals.