$10 billion Illegal Trade in Wildlife

There is petition going around at the moment – 21st June 2012. It requests that Thailand’s Environmental Minister tries harder to stop the illegal export of endangered animals and animal parts from Thailand. The trade from Thailand is just one part of a massive worldwide business that leads to the slaughter and/or capture of live wildlife. The country is a key transit area for this business. I am sure tiger parts go through there as well on route to China.

The Causes.com page describes one typical example. A smuggler was caught at Bangkok airport with drugged wild animals including baby cheetahs in his suitcase. When you think about it is astonishing how these people can expect to get through security and all the other checks at airports with live cheetahs or bears in their suitcases. What is going on? Clearly some, perhaps a lot, of these animals don’t survive the journey. That is not a major problem for the smuggler. It is a built-in overhead. He makes enough out the animals that do survive; tens of thousands of dollars. Big bucks for a guy in Thailand and modest money for a prince in the UAE (United Arab Emirates).

The petition is against the minister in Thailand. That is good. That is the seller end of the deal. But what about the buyer in Dubai or Abu Dhabi? Are they immune? It seems so.

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international treaty that is meant to control trade in animals and animal parts. Many countries are signed up to the treaty. The United Arab Emirates signed up in 1990. Yet in 2008, eighteen years later, the WWF say that their customs officers are trained, meaning just trained. At the beginning, in 1990, enforcement and management of the CITES agreement seems to have been chaotic or non-existent in the UAE. It just seems that there is a lack of commitment in politics to ensure that CITES is enforced. That lack of commitment is due to the wealth generated by the business, some of which finds its way into the pockets of politicians.

The sad thing is that in 2012, there would appear to be inadequate policing of CITES in these rich states. We are told that the UAE is a sort of hub for wild life trade. That was certainly the case in 1990. Has anything really changed or is the training of customs officials just window dressing?

I have read quite a lot about CITES. I am not convinced that is works. It may even do some harm because it presents an image to the world that something is being done to limit and stop trade in endangered species but if the trade is worth $10 billion it is hard to believe that it is being limited.

I don’t have the figures but it would not surprise me to discover that the turnover in this nasty business has gradually increased over the years. One day it will decrease. The reason won’t be CITES. There will simply be less wildlife to trade. It will be all but extinct in the wild.

CITES in relation to cats (2008)

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