CITES CITES is the singles most important treaty protecting species at an international level. CITES stands for Convention on international trade in Endangered Species. It was established in 1973 in association with the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).
Currently, the treaty has been ratified by more than 120 countries. CITES is headquartered in Switzerland.
It establishes lists (known as Appendices) of species for which the international trade has to be regulated and monitored. Those nations which are affiliated agree to restrict the trade and destructive exploitation of these species. Appendix I includes approximately 675 animals and plants for which commercial trade is prohibited. Appendix II include approximately 3700 animals and 21, 000 plants whose international trade is monitored and restricted.
International treaties such as CITES are implemented once the countries signed pass laws and enforce them. Once these laws have been passed within a country, police, wildlife inspectors, customs officials and other government agents can arrest and prosecute anyone who possesses or trades organisms which are listed by the treaty and seize them. Member countries are required to have their own management and scientific authorities to comply with their CITES obligations. NGO s such as the IUCN, WWF, TRAFFIC network, and WCMC provide advice and assistance to the authorities.
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The protection of biological diversity has to be addressed at many levels of government. Although the major control systems that exist today are based within individual countries, international trade agreements are becoming widely used to protect species and habitats. International cooperation is extremely important for many reasons. First, many species migrate across international boundaries; therefore, these species must be protected wherever they are at the time and the habitats they will occupy when they migrate.
If a specie is in one country for the winter, but their spring habitat is destroyed, the species will have an extremely difficult time surviving the next season. Second, international trade of organisms and biological products is everywhere. A strong demand of a product in one wealthy country can lead to over exploitation of the species and / or its habitat in a poor country to meet with this demand and help their economy. Many wealthy people are willing to pay extremely high amounts of money for certain products that may come from exotic animals for medicinal, esoteric or aphrodisiac qualities, therefore, poachers or poor people will take on the task and kill even the last animal alive for the money. There are many examples of this.
The rhino horns, elephant tusks, tiger bones, turtle eggs, even black bear gallbladders are in high demand for different purposes. To prevent overexploitation from happening, there is a need for education, economic alternatives for the people involved, and strict control and management of the trade at the points of import and export. Third, the benefits of biological diversity are of extreme importance at an international level. Every country is in need of their biological diversity for purposes ranging from agriculture, medicine and industry to the ecosystems that help regulate the climate and those which are of importance for ecotourism and biological research. Wealthy countries should help less those countries which are less wealthy unless they start preserving their ecosystems and diversity (that goes for Mexico as well).
Last but not least, pollution problems have affected many ecosystems in the global scope. Acid rain, ozone depletion, pollution of bodies of water, global climate changes, etc. are problems that affect the entire global community, not just one country. Only when every country starts working out together will we solve these problems. The biggest problems that every international treaty (not just CITES) is facing is that participation is voluntary and countries can withdraw from participating at any time they desire to do so or if they find that the rules and norms they have to follow are too difficult to comply with. This flaw was highlighted when several countries walked out of the International Whaling commission due to the ban on whale hunting.
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Persuasion and public pressure are the principal means used to induce countries to enforce treaty provisions and prosecute violators, although funding through treaty organizations seems to help as well. There are many approaches that are being used in conjunction with policies such as CITES. For example, hunting and fishing laws which were implemented in the US in the 1890 s to conserve the resources for future use of hums rather than to preserve the species for its own sake. The Endangered species act (ESA) of 1973, which sets different categories for the degree of danger or risk animals of all kinds (not just game animas like the fishing and hunting laws) to disappear, and to save as much biodiversity as possible.
The ESA regulates several activities regarding to the interactions of humans with protected species including taking, importing and exporting, possessing, selling and shipping, and also offering to sell or buy a species that is on the list. Violations are fined up to $100, 000 and 1-year imprisonment. In Conclusion, while CITES is a very good approach to monitoring and preventing trade of species, there are many flaws that need to be worked out before the plan can be 100% successful. Governments need to start implementing the laws and become much more strict when enforcing such laws. We are however making good progress. Not all is lost yet.
If we (the citizens of the world) start being more considerate about other living organisms that share the planet with us, there should be no reason why we could not make everything better. Humans are not the only species living in this planet. We just like pretending so.
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