From the CITES, the ivory trade started, but the shark trade was blocked.
|The tusks of this African elephant will end up in the home of some rich Japanese, turned into statues of Buddha.|
The last meeting of CITES (the UN body that deals with trade in endangered animals), held in Santiago de Chile during last week, disappointed some delegates but satisfied others. The most important decisions were partly against, partly in favor, of the protection of threatened species. The first concerns the African elephant (Loxodonta africana); it was in fact decided to market at least 60 tons of ivory in 2004. Although ivory comes from deposits that the three countries involved (Africa, Botswana and Namibia) have accumulated over years of fighting poaching, the fear of environmentalists and of many of the researchers is that it is not possible to completely control the trade in precious teeth. This means that sooner or later it will resume, in other less attentive African countries, the illegal killing of elephants to accumulate ivory to be placed (sooner or later) on the market. The African elephant population has collapsed from over 1, 300, 000 specimens to around 400, 000 today, precisely following poaching and the sale of ivory to eastern countries, Japan in the first place, to make statuettes of dubious taste.
Shark hunting. Other decisions (this time positive) concern two species of sharks, the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) and the elephant shark (Cetorhinus maximus), which are hunted in all the seas of the world because of their fins. The two species, slow and harmless, are easily killed by hunters. Their fins then end up in Chinese and Japanese restaurants for the infamous "shark fin soup"; the long fin of the basking shark is also used to make trophies for sale to the restaurants and homes of the rich in Asia. After being stripped of their fins, sharks are thrown back into the water dying. These sharks were, at the last moment, included in Appendix II of CITES, one in which there are species whose trade requires government control and extensive documentation if some of their parts are placed on the market. Together with these species other vulnerable organisms have been placed under protection, in particular the broad-leaved mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and many species of seahorses, used to create horrible souvenirs in tropical countries.
(News updated November 18, 2002)