Controversial claims

By Tanushree Sood
Published: Monday 30 November -0001

-- To conserve wild species, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (cites) of 1975 has adopted the strategy of imposing bans and regulations on wildlife trade. But are these restrictions the optimal solution to the declining wild fauna population? Perhaps not, say writers Jon Hutton and Barnabas Dickson in the book Endangered Species, Threatened Convention, where they argue that the irony of these trade impositions is that they help illegal and underground trade flourish. By restricting trade in wildlife, and thus limiting the benefits humans can derive from them, the writers feel cites reduces the incentives to conserve wild species.

Citing the example of the black rhino, the authors explain how a complete prohibition on trade led to a sharp rise in speculative stockpiling and illegal trade of the rhino horn. When restrictions were eased, there was a strong incentive among private landowners to conserve and breed rhino population. The book therefore recommends some relaxation in trade in a sustainable way.

cites is viewed as a victim of unilateral sanctions imposed by economically powerful consumer nations. Under the pretence of conservation, many strong producer nations like the us and eu apply domestic controls on trade which are stricter than those of cites.

The convention also comes under attack for unduly focusing on some charismatic species, while ignoring the less attractive. For instance, the conservation techniques adopted for sea turtles are far more vigorous than those for crocodiles. It is clearly evident from the fact that though proposals for trade and consumptive use for crocodiles have been frequently accepted, it is completely prohibited as far as sea turtles are concerned, clearly reflecting the discriminatory nature of cites.

The book argues that the convention needs to accept that wildlife utilisation need not be incompatible with wildlife conservation. The prerequisite, however, is to distinguish between constructive and destructive use of wildlife trade. Trade in wildlife products, tourism and sustainable harvesting of some species are some of the strategies that can be adopted to generate incentives for conservation of wildlife. In addition, cites has to get rid of its one-sided perspective of protecting species from commercial trade.

Factors such as habitat loss, pressures of human populations and others are equally crucial and should be considered by the convention.

All in all, the book acts as a white paper for cites the good, the bad and the yet to be done. It is an invaluable guide for those looking for an insight into the convention.

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