UN Agency a friend of threatened species
CIRIES – Guardians of the wild
Can we take a break from ecological doomsaying for just a moment?
David WINCH, UNOG
Successes may seem few and far between in the world of conservation and saving the wild environment. But at the UN agency CITES in Geneva, 30 or so staff find some victories that are easy to remember. For example, the little vicuna, native to the Andes region and looking like a miniature llama or a camel cloaked in a bundle of wool, saw its herds hunted to the point of collapse by the mid 1970s. Only 6,000 remained. After a vigorous evaluation and assessment effort, range States in the Andes agreed on restricted hunting and trade. With help from CITES, the herds have recovered to the point where they are “of least concern” to regulators – herds today number 350,000 and are rising.
Still, there are threats everywhere. Tigers, bluefin tuna, coral reefs, tropical snakes – many species seem headed for the brink. CITES, based on a 1975 convention “created to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival”, seeks to replace the anarchy and pillage with some order.
In November, for example, an International Tiger Forum was hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg, Russia. All 13 states with tigers remaining in the wild have signed a high-level political declaration and endorsed a Global Tiger Recovery Programme. The programme aims to double tiger numbers from the current low of 3,200 by the year 2022 – the next Chinese Year of the Tiger. Heads of government from Bangladesh, China, Laos and Nepal also attended the Forum.
CITES Secretary-General, John Scanlon, was impressed with the start: “The results of the International Tiger Forum represent an unprecedented effort by Heads of Government and senior Ministers to save a single species. It is quite literally ‘the last roll of the dice’ for the survival of the tiger in the wild, and this level of political support and commitment is just what is needed. Coupled with strong support coming from a broad range of entities, including the World Bank, GEF, CITES, IUCN and WWF, the outcomes of the Forum ensure the survival of the tiger in the wild is given its best chance.”