One of the most important international treaties to help prevent species from becoming extinct has celebrated it’s 35th birthday. The Washington Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was first adopted on 1st July 1975 with just 10 members agreeing to work to conserve some of the planets most endangered species by restricting trade in them and their products. Now 35 years later there are 176 members of the convention and it has the enviable reputation of being able to claim that not one of the 34,000 species that are or have been covered by the convention has been made extinct because of international trade.
Protecting the world’s diversity can only be done on a global scale through international action and pressure. Over the last 35 years the threats to our most endangered species have not diminished but instead have consistently increased as the world became wealthier. The new middle classes in the Asian nations and the increasing demand for bush meat across the world means that CITES is as relevant today - probably even more so – than it was when it was first put together.
To celebrate it’s anniversary UNEP have launched some web based endangered species trade tools at the CITES trade dashboard. It’s well worth the visit to look at the trends in wildlife trading that has taken place since the treaty started. With over 10 million records of trades the dashboards offers a insight into what is currently being traded and the changing trends of fashion. for instance currently the items that are increasingly being traded are plants (excluding cacti and orchids) and birds.
You can use the dashboard to look at the trends in wildlife trading over periods of time, different groups of species or on a country level. The trends are made from 2 sets of figures those reported by the exporters and another set by the importers. It would be interesting to find out if there are any reasons in particular for the different reporting between the two. You would imagine that both figures should be similar as exporters have to export to someone and that’s generally importers. But perhaps that’s just an indication of how shady the trade in endangered species is.
Looking through the information provided for the UK we can see that the most imported endangered mammal into the UK during 2008 (the last year figures available) was the crab eating Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) with almost 300 individuals imported into Britain that year. Does this mean that the UK is full of monkey loving pet owners? Unfortunately not, the crab eating Macaque also goes by the common name of Cynomolgous Monkey which is well known among biomedical institutes as a popular animal to experiment on especially in neurological research.
Fortunately for birds the imports of endangered species into the UK has practically dried up since 2005, but these figures relate to the official trade in endangered species and do not take into account the black-market or illegal smuggling of endangered species. One of the big areas of growth in imports of animals in the UK is reptiles. Snakes seem to be growing in popularity with people and for the first time in 3 years there was a massive imports of Hermann’s Tortoise in 2008 with almost 3000 individuals imported.
The UNEP has really provided an excellent tool in celebration of CITES 35th anniversary and it’s easy to wile away a few hours playing about with some of the facilities. You are sure to find some eye-opening figures and trends in wildlife trade.
photo credit: beggs