EIA Priorities for CITES Standing Committee 74

This week governments and NGOs from around the world will descend on Lyon, France, for the 74th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (SC74). As a result of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be the first in-person CITES meeting since the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18).

CITES Parties will tackle a packed agenda at SC74 that covers everything from ivory and rhino horn trafficking to the role that wildlife trade plays in the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases. EIA will be on the scene advocating for the world’s governments to maintain and enhance international protections for threated and highly-trafficked species like elephants, rhinos, and rosewood. EIA’s complete comments and recommendations for SC74 can be found here.

EIA has long campaigned for the closure of domestic ivory markets around the world in order to protect elephants by cutting off consumer access to ivory and preventing these markets from contributing to the ivory trafficking that undermines the international ban on elephant ivory trade adopted in 1989. One by one, countries around the world like the United States, China, Singapore, France, and many others shuttered their ivory markets for good.

The last major legal domestic ivory market can be found in Japan. With more than 244 tonnes of stockpiled ivory and a regulatory system riddled with loopholes, Japan’s domestic ivory market is susceptible to abuse and facilitates the leakage of illegal ivory exports to other countries where ivory trade is prohibited. In Lyon, EIA will be urging for SC74 to recommend that CoP19 adopt a decision directing Japan to close its ivory market urgently in line with existing provisions endorsed by CITES that call for all Parties to close ivory markets that contribute to poaching or illegal trade.

You can read more about Japan’s domestic ivory market and EIA’s recommendations to SC74 here.

Rhinos will also be under discussion at SC74. Rhinos have been experiencing unrelenting poaching pressure since the mid-2000s, and at SC74 Parties will review enforcement measures taken by key countries affected by rhino poaching and the illegal rhino horn trade and make recommendations to CoP19 that will determine CITES actions toward rhinos for the next three years.

One of the rhino range states worst affected by poaching in recent years has been Botswana. The Okavango Delta in the northwest corner of the country was once considered one of the safest landscapes for wild rhinos, but beginning in 2018 poachers set their sights on the Okavango’s rhinos. The white and black rhino populations of the Okavango have suffered tremendous losses in recent years, and anti-poaching interventions initiated by Botswana have been largely ineffective. EIA is calling on SC74 to direct Botswana to share more information with CITES about what it’s doing to stem the tide of the poaching, including providing information on any intelligence-led investigations it is conducting to dismantle the organized criminal networks responsible for poaching its rhinos.

Click here to learn more about the rhino poaching situation in Botswana and EIA’s recommendations to SC74. 

Similar to domestic ivory markets, domestic rhino horn markets also drive poaching by stimulating demand and can contribute to the illegal trade. At CoP18, CITES Parties adopted a decision calling for the closure of rhino horn markets that contribute to poaching or illegal trade, but very little information on the implementation of this decision was reported by Parties, such as South Africa, which maintains the most significant legal domestic rhino horn market. EIA is urging SC74 to recommend the renewal and strengthening of this decision at CoP19 to bring about the closure of all domestic rhino horn markets once and for all.

EIA is also recommending that SC74 call for the reconvening of the CITES Rhinoceros Enforcement Task Force, which last met in 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, to develop and adopt collective strategies to address rhino poaching and international rhino horn trafficking. At SC74, CITES Parties will have the opportunity to put forth a recommendation to CoP19 to once again bring all countries affected by rhino horn trafficking together 10 years on from the last Task Force meeting to reassess existing enforcement strategies, adopt new ones, and strengthen and build new relationships among key enforcement agencies and stakeholders.

Learn more about domestic rhino horn markets and EIA’s other rhino-related priorities here.

The fate of what are arguably the world’s most valuable and coveted timber stockpiles will be discussed at SC74. Madagascar maintains a so-called “controlled” stockpile of roughly 30,000 rosewood logs that have long been subject to CITES oversight to ensure any logs intended for use were verified, inventories, and marked to safeguard against large-scale laundering of illegally logged wood into trade. Madagascar is now proposing a new approach to circumvent existing requirements that would allow for domestic use and trade of the stockpile and, crucially, exports of rosewood items in 10 kg shipments. This proposal is problematic on a number of levels, with evidence already available to illustrate the laundering avenues it allows that would now be outside the oversight of CITES.

Click here to read about EIA and Transparency International’s investigation of this new approach by Madagascar, and EIA’s full suite of recommendations to SC74 regarding Madagascar’s rosewood stockpile. 

The rosewood crisis has been devastating West African forests and the livelihoods of its people for almost a decade. There are massive discrepancies in the amount of rosewood reportedly traded according to exports and importers to the tune of nearly 2 million tonnes according to EIA’s analysis of CITES trade data. In a new report, EIA highlights how Mali is emblematic of this crisis. There has been widespread illegal logging of Mali’s rosewood and more than 123 tonnes of rosewood illegally exported in breach of Mali’s log export ban to China alone since 2020. In light of the widespread and unrelenting illegal logging and trade of rosewood from West Africa, EIA will be calling on SC74 to recommend the implementation of a regional trade suspension across all West African rosewood range states.

You can find out more by clicking here to EIA’s new report, Red Alert: Regional Rosewood Crisis Hits Malian Forests and People.

To read about the SC74 priorities of EIA’s UK office, click here.