The brief explores the effectiveness of CITES, the only existing international convention to address trade in wild specimens of flora and fauna.
The third brief in IISD’s ‘Still Only One Earth’ series highlights that illegal wildlife trade can lead to the spread of zoonoses, such as SARS-CoV-2 that caused the COVID-19 pandemic.
The policy brief titled, ‘The Evolving War on Illegal Wildlife Trade,’ is authored by Tanya Rosen. Rosen reports that the world’s more “charismatic” species as well as lesser known ones are suffering unprecedented declines due to trafficking and unsustainable trade in wildlife commodities including elephant ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales, tiger bone, and bear bile. Wildlife crime is the fourth-largest illegal global trade, she notes, following narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking.
The focus of the policy brief series is on lessons from sustainable policy and governance, and Rosen explores the effectiveness of the only existing international convention to address trade in wild specimens of flora and fauna – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The brief notes that many species being illegally traded are not listed through CITES, and that enforcement is challenged by the lack of an agreed definition of wildlife crime. An emerging challenge for CITES amid COVID-19 is that the prospect of further restricting wildlife trade could “send that trade underground.” Rosen notes that the threat of more pandemics “looms large,” and is expected to affect conservation and efforts to curb illegal wildlife trade.
The brief concludes with a recommendation: while countries may be willing to enter into a new, stronger agreement, they should first consider whether CITES can further adapt to better curb illegal wildlife trade and address the challenges brought by COVID-19.
The policy brief series draws on the environmental negotiation insights of the global ENB team. The briefs aim to guide future efforts to address the causes of climate change, support the sustainable management of natural resources, and foster fair and sustainable economies.