Cites puts bite on plan to open up croc trade

Thailand's proposals to ease the protection of saltwater crocodiles and Siamese crocodiles were rejected at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) yesterday.

Buri Ram police raid a giant wood processing factory in Prakhon Chai district, where they found more than 200 protected phayung logs worth more than 300 million baht. SURACHAI PIRAGSA

Currently, saltwater and Siamese crocodiles are included in Cites' Appendix I, which covers species under threat of extinction. Trade in specimens of these species only is permitted in rare, exceptional circumstances.

The Fisheries Department proposed that Cites move the two species from Appendix I to Appendix II, which would allow regulated international trade in the reptiles.

The proposal received less than two-thirds of the votes needed for approval during the meeting in Bangkok yesterday.

Fisheries Department director-general Wimol Jantrarotai said even though the proposal failed to receive enough votes, it had still gained a lot of support.

She said Thailand will submit the proposal to the Cites plenary meeting for reconsideration on Mar 13 and 14. Support from at least a third of member countries are needed to ask for a vote on the proposal again.

She said if the proposal eventually fails to gain endorsement at the meeting, the department's working panel will find more information to support it and the panel will also have to prove that the number of crocodiles in the wild is likely to increase.

Conservation projects will also continue as part of efforts to increase the number of crocodiles.

A representative from Ireland said 28 European Union countries disagreed with the proposal because the population of the crocodiles in the wild is still small.

The crocodiles are only found scattered in protected areas, he said, adding that Thailand provides little information about the protection of the species to the public.

The species should remain in Appendix I, he said.

A representative from the Philippines said the country had agreed with Thailand's proposal as Thailand has enforced laws and introduced projects to protect and preserve crocodiles.

Of 129 member countries, 69 supported the proposal to transfer Siamese crocodiles from Appendix I to Appendix II, while 49 rejected it and 11 abstained.

For a proposal to transfer saltwater crocodiles from Appendix I to Appendix II, a total of 121 countries took part in the vote with 61 agreeing with the proposal and 54 disagreeing. Six abstained.

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Writer: Patsara Jikkham
Position: Reporter