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News 4 May 07
US to lock horns over wild species trade
by Ken Dermota
US delegates plan to lock horns with China and Japan over protecting tigers, whales and elephants, while lobbying to remove bobcats from endangered lists next month, witnesses told Congress Thursday.
"China is seriously considering lifting its domestic ban on trade in tiger parts," said Todd Willins, who will head the US delegation to the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, to be held in The Hague June 3-15.
"Authorizing such trade would create a legal market for the tiger farms that already exist in China, but more importantly, would provide a cover for poached tiger products to enter the market," Willins told legislators.
Other committee witnesses said the tiger population is declining in China and in India, mostly for supposed medicinal uses of its parts.
The President of the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Lixin Huang, said that traditional Chinese medicine no longer uses tiger bone, previously thought to ameliorate rheumatism and arthritis, and the only reason for lifting the ban on tiger farming was greed.
"Tiger farm owners wish to earn millions if not billions of dollars by rekindling the Chinese public's demand for tonic use of tiger-bone wine," she said.
The United States also plans to take a hard line on harvest of African elephant tusks and on Japan's proposal that CITES encourage a foreshortening of International Whaling Commission management, he said.
Michael Wamithi, of International Fund for Animal Welfares' protection unit, came from Nairobi to testify in favor of proposals from Kenya and Mali, with the support of Ghana and Togo, to ban all ivory sales for 20 years.
"The illegal trade in ivory has fueled a global poaching epidemic," he said. A number of proposals on elephants are to be discussed at CITES.
Among them, Botswana and Namibia would establish export quotas for ivory, and Botswana would allow trade in live elephants and leather goods as well as permission to sell some 20,000 kilograms of registered ivory under CITES supervision, the proceeds to be used to protect elephants.
Another US concern is removal of the bobcat from the CITES protection lists, arguing that time and money spent complying with CITES could be better used to help species that need it.
"The bobcat is the most widely distributed native cat in North America," Willins said, noting that a million could be found in the United States alone. The bobcat was listed 30 years ago to help enforcement because of its similar appearance to other lynxes, he said.
"Skins are almost always auctioned as dry skins with fur out and usually complete, including a bobcat's distinguishing features on the ears and tail," he said. "Bobcats should not present a look-alike problem to CITES parties," he told the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species was signed in Washington in 1975 and has 171 member nations who enforce CITES restrictions on trade in flora and fauna.
The program is administered through a secretariat at the UN Environment Program in Switzerland. Representatives will meet in The Hague for the 14th Conference of the Parties in June to allow countries to amend rules aimed at defining and protecting endangered species.
Some 530 animal and 300 plant species enjoy complete bans on trade under CITES, while trade of another 4,460 animal and 28,000 plants is restricted.
Among marine issues up for debate, the United States wants to slow trade in pink coral, which has been prized in jewelry and for decoration for 5,000 years, on tropical coral reefs rendered fragile and bleached by climate change.
The European Union also wants the spiny dogfish, a shark prized in fish-and-chip shops, to be subject to a permit system and fisheries management.
Germany, as EU president, called the spiny dogfish vulnerable because it travels in large schools that are easily trawled by fishing boats and because of its slow reproductive rate.
The EU proposal would also regulate the porbeagle, which the United states says it is still evaluating, because both sharks are managed by US and Canadian agencies.
China Breeders Urge Lifting of Tiger Parts Ban
PlanetArk 30 Mar 07
CITES: Proposals to change wildlife regulations unveiled
WWF 17 Jan 07
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