While, according to several reports, the extinction of species continues at an accelerated pace, thousands of political leaders and conservation experts are meeting from Saturday, August 17 in Switzerland, for twelve days of discussions to to modify the degree of protection afforded to animals and plants by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
This international treaty, signed more than 40 years ago, sets the rules for the protection and international trade of more than 35,000 species - whether they appear in trade as live plants or animals, fur coats or dried herbs. Each signatory State must translate into its law the restrictions of the Cites and ensure that they are respected. If not, trade sanctions and embargoes can be put in place.
For twelve days in Geneva, delegates from more than 180 countries will be looking at 56 proposals that will be submitted to governments, some of which relate to the trade in ivory and rhinoceros horns.
Ivonne Higuero, Secretary General of Cites (also known as the Washington Convention), said at the beginning of the conference that "to continue as before is no longer an option", while warning that "the dangerous decline of nature is unprecedented ".
She had previously indicated that the meeting would focus on strengthening existing rules and standards, while expanding the benefits of the CITES regime to new plants and new animals threatened by human activities.
"The survival of the ecosystem is not a game"
In Geneva, it will also discuss the damage caused to many species by poaching and illegal trade, as well as the challenges posed by Internet crime related to wildlife. Delegations will, among other things, consider several proposals concerning African elephants. After decades of poaching that pushed the elephant population from several million in the mid-twentieth century to some 400,000 in 2015, the ivory trade was virtually banned in 1989.
However, several African countries are demanding the right to sell registered ivory stocks owned by these governments, arguing that this could satisfy the demand, mostly from Asia, and thus raise funds for conservation programs. Animal advocates, on the other hand, say that previous ivory stock-sale experiences have actually boosted demand and encouraged poaching, because of the difficulty in distinguishing between legally harvested defenses and others.
"A small minority of southern African countries, such as Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, have been trying for some years to formally revive the ivory trade," said France 24 member Rachel Mackenna recently. Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which uses intelligence to protect nature, these countries have a fairly large elephant population, but the last regional census for it dates from 2016, so it would be very risky to reopen the market. "
He added: "We need everyone to understand that the survival of the ecosystem is not a game. We are trying to convince these countries to withdraw their proposals and prove that the ban on the ivory trade had positive effects for elephant survival. "
This event, organized every three years since the beginning of the 1970s, takes place in an alarming context, highlighted in particular by a report of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), published in May 2019, announcing that a million species were threatened with extinction.
"Nature is declining globally at an unprecedented rate in human history - and the rate of species extinction is accelerating, now causing serious effects on human populations around the world," IPBES warned. this report supported by the UN.
More recently, a study, published Aug. 8 by the journal Global Change Biology, indicates that some species found in lakes and rivers have declined by 88% in the space of forty years.
So many cries of alarm that did not deter the Trump administration to relax, on August 12, the American law that protected many endangered species. In particular by removing a clause granting automatically the same protection to the so-called "endangered species" that species "endangered" immediate. The new version of the law also repeals a sentence stating that economic considerations should not be taken into account in decisions to protect wildlife.