Cites tries to curb illegal logging
- Published: 12/03/2013 at 08:33 PM
- Online news:
Governments agreed Tuesday to step up efforts to protect threatened tree species from illegal loggers, amidst warnings that criminal gangs are plundering the world's forests.
The 178-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species on Flora and Fauna, known as Cites, agreed to restrict cross-border trade in ebony from Madagascar as well as rosewoods (phayung, in Thai) from the same island, as well as Southeast Asia and Central America.
"Never before have so many positive proposals to list tree species been adopted by Cites nations," said Juan Carlos Cantu of Defenders of Wildlife.
"Without the protection of Cites to regulate international trade, the unsustainable illegal harvest will bring these species to the brink of extinction in 10 to 20 years," he warned.
A picture shows one of four shipping containers full of rosewood logs or phayung recently seized by Customs officials at Laem Chabang Port in Chon Buri. The containers were prepared for export. (Photo by Kosol Nakachol)
The proposals, adopted by consensus at the meeting at the Queen Sirikit National Conference Center, aim to help countries better regulate and monitor trade in the tropical hardwoods, making it harder for illegal loggers to sell their timber overseas.
They require countries to issue export permits to ensure the sustainability of the species in the wild, or face sanctions by members of Cites, a global treaty which protects some 35,000 species.
Experts said the listing of slow-growing timber species from Madagascar was particularly welcome as many have been hit hard by a rampant illegal international trade despite a domestic ban on exports of precious wood.
Madagascar faces "a crisis of illegal logging" owing to political instability and growing global demand for its wood, said Mark Roberts of the Environmental Investigation Agency, a wildlife campaign group.
"Wherever rosewood and ebony grow, forestry officials are grappling with the effects of illegal harvesting and trade, valuable resources plundered, involvement of organised crime and habitat loss," he added.
Experts say China has emerged as a major destination for timber from Madagascar and elsewhere, replacing traditional markets like Europe which has shifted towards sustainably managed wood.
"China has a very well developed processing industry," using timber for everything from musical instruments to furniture, said David Newton, an expert with wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that between 50 and 90 per cent of logging in key tropical countries of the Amazon basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia is done by organised crime rings.
"Illegal logging is worth well over $30 billion annually to the criminals, whereas many of the poor people enlisted into these illegal activities get a pittance in return," said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner.
Meanwhile, the Cites meeting on Tuesday urged Vietnam to do more to fight the illegal trade in rhino horn, which is highly prized in the Southeast Asian nation for its supposed medicinal qualities.
The Cites meeting appealed for greater global efforts to prosecute traffickers and curb rising demand in Asia.
The meeting called on Vietnam in particular to redouble its efforts, along with Mozambique which was urged to prioritise legislation to prevent rhino poaching and illegal trade - a move welcomed by campaigners.
"It's encouraging to see attention focused where it is needed most and Cites nations collectively and loudly calling for tightening of trade controls and stricter penalties for illegal activities," said Mark Jones of Humane Society International. "But more must be done to save rhinos before it's too late."
Some 668 rhinos were slaughtered in 2012, a grim record that on current trends will be surpassed this year.
Hanoi was asked to develop a secure registration database to track legal rhino horn trophies, and to draw up strategies to reduce demand in a country where rhino horn is sold as a cure for cancer and even hangovers.
The Vietnamese authorities were asked to report back on their progress by January 2014, notably arrests, seizures and prosecutions.
A Vietnamese representative at the meeting said Hanoi "will do our best" but called on fellow Cites member states to provide technical and financial support.
South Africa earlier warned the conference that its white rhino population would begin to decline by 2016 if the current rate of poaching continued, following the killing of scores of the creatures this year.
Rhinos have been registered since 1977 under Appendix I of Cites, banning the trade in their parts.
Horns from the legal trophy hunting of white rhinos in South Africa and neighbouring Swaziland are exempt - a move some conservationists say has saved the species by encouraging game reserves to maintain large populations.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency