A group of Greenpeace activists hang a banner reading 'Don't Trade Away the Planet' from the Rama IX bridge in the Thai capital of Bangkok.
Over the last several weeks the Rainbow Warrior has been in
Bangkok, Thailand, leading the battle at the Convention on
International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). This isn't just
any old convention, the results are global and legally binding.
Our key objectives for CITES were to achieve increased
protection for some key ocean and forest species. We were also
determined to ensure that Japan did not achieve its proposed
downlisting of minke whales - which would have meant that limited
numbers of them could be caught and traded commercially. (So much
for their "scientific" whaling program!)
When CITES opened, an extensive Kids for Forest programme raised
the profile of the issues in Thailand. Children built a jungle in
one of Bangkok's most famous parks over the weekend when CITES was
meeting, took part in a Kids Parade at the meeting venue and made a
presentation to the Thai Environment Minister.
Here's a blow by blow account of what happened in Thailand ...
and what happens next.
|How CITES Works
|Species under CITES are classed in an
"Appendix" detailing the level of protection:
- Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction.
Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in
- Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened
with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to
avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
- Appendix III contains species that are protected in at
least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for
assistance in controlling the trade.
MISSION 1: PROTECT RAMIN TREE
Download Ramin Factsheet
Ramin is a key tree species for the survival of orang-utans in
SE Asia and one which is being traded illegally and unsustainably,
particularly in Europe. It now has Appendix II protection under
CITES. Another commercially exploited timber species, Agarwood,
which is traded particularly in the Middle East, also got Appendix
During the convention, Greenpeace completed a six-week
investigation in the field into illegal ramin smuggling from
Sumatra, Indonesia, into Malaysia and Singapore. These findings
were released with the arrival of the Rainbow Warrior in
We didn't stop there though - activists protested outside the
embassies of Malaysia and Japan against Malaysia's involvement in
the illegal ramin trade and their opposition to the Appendix II
listing for ramin. We also highlighted Japan's "horrendous," (to
quote one campaigner) positions on ocean issues. "[They were] so
awful it was unreal!" If you think that's an exaggeration, then
MISSION 2: PROTECT GREAT WHITE
Download Great White Shark factsheet
Governments of Australia and Madagascar had proposed the listing of
the great white shark on Appendix II. Despite its high profile, not
to mention fame as the star of the horror movie 'Jaws', the great
white shark has become a rarity in the world's oceans. As great
white sharks travel long distances and cross national boundaries,
intergovernmental efforts to protect the species are crucial to
The great white shark was awarded Appendix II status.
MISSION 3: PROTECT HUMPHEAD WRASSE
Download Humphead Wrasse factsheet
a humphead wrasse, we hear you ask? The Governments of Fiji, the
Member States of the European Community, and the US have submitted
a proposal for the inclusion of this funny-looking fish in CITES
Appendix II in response to the over exploitation of the species
from international trade.
Once again, Japan was fierce in its determination to stop this
but was heavily defeated in Bangkok.
MISSION 4: SAVE THE IRRAWADDY
Download Irrawaddy Dolphin Factsheet
The irrawaddy dolphin, a rare cetacean from Asia, got onto
Appendix I despite concerted efforts from a number of nations
including (no surprises here) Japan.
MISSION 5: PROTECT THE MINKE WHALE
Download Minke Whale Factsheet
Japan also completely failed in its attempts to get minke whales
downlisted - they were yet again heavily defeated.
Following the disastrous impacts of whaling during the 20th
century, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) suspended
commercial whaling in 1986. Japan is keen to resume trade in whale
products, but in order to do so they need to downlist whales from
CITES Appendix I.
This is the 5th successive proposal by Japan to downlist minke
whales from Appendix I to Appendix II. All previous proposals
failed by a substantial voting majority because they did not meet
the necessary scientific criteria.
MISSION 6: PROTECT AFRICAN
RESULT: PARTIAL VICTORY
Download African Elephant Factsheet
Namibia put in a proposal to have an annual quota of raw ivory
of 2000 kgs. They also sought permission to trade in "worked
ivory"- these are carvings made by local communities which are used
in jewellery. Both South Africa and Namibia wanted to trade in
elephant hair and leather goods.
At the same time Kenya submitted a resolution for a 20-year
moratorium until systems were in place to effectively control
domestic and international trade in ivory.
Unforunately, the Kenyan proposal failed.
On a more positive note, Namibia's proposal to have an annual
sale of 2000 kgs was also rejected by parties, thoug in the end a
majority agreed the sale of ivory carvings by local communities for
"non-commercial" purposes. Both South Africa's and Namibia's
proposal to sell elephant leather and hair goods were agreed.
"We are not supportive of this," said Greenpeace campaigner
Nathalie Rey. "History shows that any sale of ivory products
increases the likelihood of illegal trade and poaching of
elephants. These proposals were agreed despite a number of
countries with elephant populations (Kenya, India) arguing that
this is dangerous for the conservation of their own elephants."
Disappointingly, the 25 EU votes abstained on the issue, which
gave Namibia the numbers they needed to approve trade in worked
most important aspect of CITES is that it is not the usual type of
political meeting. "This Convention is not just a talk fest. When
parties vote for listings of species this has real bite and is
legally binding," said Greenpeace campaigner Tim Birch. This means
that delegates left the convention with a lot of homework -
implementing the agreements made so that the crucial protection for
these endangered species is achieved.
Quest - save endangered species from your desktop!