Good News, Bad News

The good news is that people are talking.

Unfortunately, that’s it.

The bad news is that the discussion needs to take place at all. BBC’s Matt McGrath explains:

BBC logoNew plans to protect elephants, rhinos and other species will be discussed at a critical meeting that begins in Bangkok on Sunday.

Delegates will review the convention on the international trade in endangered species (CITES).

Around 35,000 animals and plants are at present protected by the treaty.

But with a global “extinction crisis” facing many species, this year’s meeting is being described as the most critical in its history.

Naturally, one of the foremost controversies is the idea of secret ballots versus transparancy. “CITES ought to be a transparent body,” said Mark Jones of Humane Society International, “but secret ballots have become easier to implement at the behest of certain parties who don’t want their vote to be known.” Sounds about right.

Proposals regarding seventy species, including elephants, are expected, which puts the spotlight on Thai hosts:

CITES Appendices[M]any campaigners see Thailand as being one of the biggest contributors to the trade, as it is legal there to sell ivory taken from native elephants. Criminals are believed to use this loophole to sell stocks of ivory from African elephants as well.

The Thai government is now under pressure to take action.

“After years of failing to end this unfettered trade, Thailand should grab the spotlight and shut down these markets that are fuelling the poaching of elephants in Africa,” said Carlos Drews of environmental group WWF.

Campaign groups are seeking to have sanctions imposed on Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria to try and stem the flow of ivory.

Sanctions, of course, are a difficult proposal, as they rarely affect the intended targets insofar as the burden is often passed to the rest of a nation’s society. And in poor nations like DRC and Nigeria, poverty makes black market rates attractive.

Also on the agenda this year are considerations of bears, rhinoceri, turtles, sharks, and the trees used to make musical instruments. Sure, the late Les Paul had to carry a passport if he left the country, but the guitar named in his honor?

This could get interesting, though in truth it probably won’t. International conventions are notoriously ineffective.

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