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Contact: Hugh Vickery in Washington
October 14, 2004
United States Pleased with Outcome of CITES Conference in Bangkok, Assistant Secretary Craig Manson Declares

(BANGKOK, Thailand) -- The United States is pleased with the outcome of the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), said Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson, the head of the U.S. delegation.

"Just as we did at the last Conference of the Parties in Santiago two years ago, we were able to achieve virtually all of our objectives," Manson said. "I am particularly pleased with the passage of U.S. proposals to conserve the humphead wrasse and a variety of species of Asian yews that have been threatened by over-harvesting and commercial trade. Trade in these species will now be more strictly controlled."

The delegates also recognized successful American conservation efforts by approving U.S. proposals to downlist the bald eagle and peach-faced lovebird.

"The downlisting of the bald eagle represents a true success story under CITES," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior David P. Smith, alternate head of the U.S. delegation. "We are pleased that the delegates were able to recognize the dramatic comeback of our national symbol."

On the humphead wrasse proposal, the United States -- working with the assistance of the World Conservation Union and the World Wildlife Fund -- obtained the delegates' approval to strictly control trade in this increasingly rare reef fish after narrowly failing to obtain the necessary two-thirds vote in Santiago. The wrasse is very vulnerable to overexploitation because it has a naturally low productivity and spawns at known locations at consistent dates. An adult will occupy one favored location on a reef resulting in high predictability for fisherman.

On the Asian yew proposal, international trade restrictions passed at the conference will ensure legal and sustainable supplies of Taxol, a breast cancer drug derived from the tree, Manson said.

"Taxol is a vitally important drug in the treatment of cancer," Manson said. "The action taken by CITES nations' will help ensure this drug is available to doctors and patients in the future."
The United States also supported a successful proposal by Australia to protect the great white shark, a species that has been depleted by over-harvest.

U.S. officials held bilateral meetings with a number of other delegations to discuss cooperation in conserving threatened and endangered species and their habitat. Manson met with ministers from Canada, Mexico, China, Kenya, Malaysia, Namibia, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Claudia McMurray expressed U.S. support for increased international attention to combat illegal wildlife trafficking. McMurray met with Thai Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Suwit Khunkitti to applaud Thailand's initiative to establish a Southeast Asia regional network on wildlife enforcement and to show U.S. support of a broader Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) companion initiative to counter wildlife trafficking.

"The Thai and ASEAN proposals to deter illicit trade in wildlife are important steps to help save endangered species and the United States will look for ways to be an active partner in these efforts," she said.

The United States also played a pivotal role in the dialogue among range states on proposals related to ramin (a tropical hardwood), elephants, Irawaddy dolphin, and the great white shark, four of the high-profile species debated by the more than 150 nations at the conference.
The member nations adopted an Indonesian proposal to strictly regulate international trade in ramin, a commercially valuable tropical hardwood mainly found in Malaysia and Indonesia that has been subject to widespread illegal logging. The United States voted for the plan and encouraged parties to support Indonesia's approach to this effort through several bilateral consultations with range nations and other key delegations.

"We supported this proposal as part of our President's commitment to combat illegal logging on a global basis," Manson said.

Despite Indonesia's serious efforts such as imposing bans on logging and export and listing the tree on CITES' Appendix III, illegal logging continues and international trade poses a continuing threat to this species, as well as the highly endangered orangutan and Sumatran tiger that rely on these forests for habitat, Manson said.

"We played an instrumental role in the adoption of Indonesia's solution to addressing the threat to ramin and we are gratified at this successful outcome," he said.

Ongoing efforts through President Bush's Initiative Against Illegal Logging, the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) and the International Tropical Timber Organization present opportunities to encourage and support bilateral and regional cooperation. The President's initiative has the objective of assisting developing countries in their efforts to combat illegal logging, including the sale and export of illegally harvested timber, and in fighting corruption in the forest sector. The TFCA offers eligible developing countries options to relieve certain official debt owed the United States while at the same time generating funds to support local tropical forest conservation activities.

On the elephant issue, delegates rejected two nations' proposals. Kenya had proposed a moratorium on new proposals for any further sales for six years, while Namibia requested approval for a new annual export quota of 2,000 kilograms of raw ivory as well as for commercial exports of traditional ivory carvings known as ekipas. The United States opposed both nations' proposals consistent with its opposition to the commercial trade of ivory.

Later in the conference, the member nations approved Namibia's amended proposal to allow only non-commercial exports of ekipas for personal use as well as earlier proposals to allow trade in elephant leather and hair by Namibia and South Africa. There is no evidence that elephants are poached for their hide or hair, and the U.S. supported these proposals.

"The United States has been one of the world's major supporters of elephant conservation and has worked closely with elephant range nations on a wide variety of conservation programs," Smith said. "Namibia should be commended for their exemplary success in the conservation of elephants and other wildlife. We firmly believe that the approval of noncommercial export of ekipas for personal use will not result in the poaching of elephants and will directly benefit local communities and craftsmen."

Here is a summary of other key issues at the conference:

  • A U.S. proposal to downlist the bobcat was modified by agreeing to have the Animals Committee of CITES study the issue of similarity of appearance listings of spotted cats. The bobcat is an abundant and well-managed species but is listed in appendix II of CITES as a look-alike species with other spotted cats. This results in a great administrative burden on both federal and state wildlife agencies.
  • The United States recognizes from experience that trade in different types of wildlife and wildlife products presents challenges that take time to address. However, it encouraged the CITES Animals Committee to make recommendations for improving the control of trade in species that are potentially threatened by that trade so that the continued listings of look-alikes would become unnecessary.
  • The United States succeeded in getting proposals it sponsored or co-sponsored passed to list a variety of highly-traded Asian turtle species in Appendix II. These include the Malayan snail-eating turtle, the Malayan flat-shelled turtle, the Southeast Asian softshell turtle, and the Fly River turtle. These species are threatened by loss of habitat and a growing commercial trade for both food and pets.
  • Japanese proposals to downlist virtually all the northern hemisphere
    populations of minke whales from Appendix I to Appendix II of the convention failed to pass. The United States strongly opposed this proposal. The proposal would have allowed resumption of commercial trade in whales for the firs time since 1986 when virtually all whale populations were placed in Appendix I.
  • The United States was unable to obtain the necessary support for listing the painted bunting under Appendix II.



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