Essay: Protection of trade of endangered species

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  • Protection of trade of endangered species
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This essay will analyse the successes and failures of the largest convention on the protection of trade of endangered species. There are various issues that impede CITES from meeting all its objectives. However, the Convention has and continues to succeed in limiting trade to protect threatened species to a great extent. It is impossible for a convention that covers such a broad range of species to control the trade of every single animal, therefore the positive empirical evidence demonstrates that CITES is overall successful. In order to demonstrate this, I will first explore the listing procedure and the debatable presence of scientific objectiveness, which impacts its applicability and context. Next, the structure of the Convention will be scrutinised in regard to how it helps and hinders implementation. Further, the issues and responses regarding CITES’ practical enforcement will be assessed. After having determined that the advantages of the Convention itself outweigh the disadvantages, the research question will be analysed through the case study of elephants.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora entered into force on the 1st July 1975. It focusses on regulating international trade of certain species of animals and plants to ensure that their survival is not threatened. Currently, CITES includes as many as 35,000 species. Due to the wildlife trade market being worth billions of pounds and involving thousands of species, controlling it is vital. CITES focuses specifically on protecting species that are being exploited, due to the large amount of trade. Since levels of exploitation for each species differ, CITES has various levels of protection. Although this treaty is multilateral and therefore has legally binding force, it simply provides a framework within which each Party should adopt their own domestic legislation. This illustrates the necessity of strong international cooperation to achieve the aim of the Convention. Due to participation being voluntary, the fact that so many countries have joined demonstrates a willingness to collaborate in attempts to save endangered species. The balanced philosophical approach also provides for why the Convention has received so much respect and now includes 183 Parties. CITES is one of the international environmental treaties that has been most extensively adopted and achieved great successes.

The supreme decision-making body of CITES is the Conference of Parties. The CoP is made up of representatives of each Party in the Convention, who meet every two to three years to review the progress of the current listings, as well as consider whether new species need to be added or moved under a different Appendix. The other main body of the Convention is the Secretariat, which is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme. This position includes a coordinating and advisory role, as well as acting as an assistance mechanism in the implementation process.

2. The Listings under CITES:

a. Appendixes Explained:

CITES establishes three Appendices into which species can be listed, depending on the amount of protection required. Appendix I “include[s] all species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade,” therefore can only be traded in “exceptional circumstances.” There is a ban on Appendix I species unless either an import or export permit is granted. Appendix II includes species that “may become [threatened with extinction] unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation.” Parties are required to monitor and restrict trade, unless it is demonstrated through scientific evidence that it is permitted. Lastly, the least regulated is Appendix III which includes “all species which any Party identifies as being subject to regulation within its jurisdiction for the purpose of preventing or restricting exploitation” and requests CITES’ support in regulating trade. Trade under Appendix III must be monitored, but not restricted.

The listings under the Appendices are not fixed. Appendix I and II can be amended by a two-thirds majority vote of the Parties present, whereas Appendix III can be unilaterally amended. Decisions, including amendments, are adopted by the CoP and become binding after 90 days without ratification. The empowerment given to the Parties, through the form of delegated law-making, can be viewed as concerning. It enables them to take significant decisions without being checked by any superior authority. It also lessens the pressure on each Party in voting, as they know that their one vote will not be the determinant of the decision, which may result in reckless decisions. This evidences the need for well-reasoned criteria, since they are not provided by CITES, and are at the pinnacle of the decision-making process.

b. Failure of Bern Criteria:

The first attempt to provide a comprehensive set of guidelines was at the Bern Conference of Parties in 1976. The listing criteria established standards that had to be taken into account for species in Appendices I and II. It was an attempt to use biological evidence when making decisions, however, the importance of this data depended largely on its availability. This was a positive move away from the equivocal language of the Convention, yet, it was vague and allowed for political views to influence decisions. Additionally, it made it almost impossible for species in Appendix I to be downgraded to Appendix II, which undermined the prominence of Appendix I. The Bern Criteria were ultimately more concerned with protecting wildlife, rather than fulfilling the aim of the Convention, which is to regulate trade.

The Bern guidelines did not triumph in providing reliable standards to follow. They simply pointed out issues to consider during the decision-making process, allowing for broad interpretation by the Parties. At the Kyoto CoP, it was established that the lack of sound guidelines destabilized CITES. It was evident that a more scientific approach was required. This would move towards limiting political decisions and therefore result in correct decisions being taken, as well as enhance the presence of the Rule of Law.

c. The Fort Lauderdale CoP:

At the Ninth CoP, changes were made to the Bern guidelines. Firstly, and arguably most importantly, scientific quantitative guidelines were introduced through the creation of the Fort Lauderdale Criteria. Secondly, there was a shift in values to consider when determining the listing of species from being a trade status to a biological status. Additionally, the CoP endorsed down-listing species that no longer require the stringent regulations of the appendix they were in, as well as permitted split-listing, meaning that two different populations of the same species could be in different appendices.

i. Fort Lauderdale Criteria Explained:

The guidelines, revised at the 13th CoP in 2004, add four broad biological criteria for assessing whether a species should be included in Appendix I. They state that one must have regard to the size and fluctuations of the population size, fluctuations in the area of distribution and quality of the habitat of the species. For Appendix II to be met, it either must be known that regulation of trade is necessary to “avoid it becoming eligible for inclusion in Appendix I in the near future” or “to ensure that the harvest of specimens from the wild is not reducing the wild population.” At first instance, the criteria appear vague and do not seem to provide much additional value to the existing guidelines. However, this is because the definitions given by the CoP are what contain the quantitative criteria. For instance, reference to the ‘near future’ is given a numerical value of being more than five years, but less than ten years. Therefore, these precise standards narrow the scope of the guidelines, as well as introduce a more scientific approach to the listing procedure.

ii. Objectivity of the FLC:

Whether the FLC are successful in eradicating political involvement from listing decisions is contentious. The quantifiable terms of the criteria demonstrate an attempt to make listing decisions as scientifically objective as possible. The clearly defined terms aim to restrict discretion during the decision-making process. However, the CoP acknowledges that species all vastly differ from each other and are influenced by case-specific interests. This is illustrated by their admittance that the figures are merely approximations and must be interpreted during their application, which results in further issues of discretion arising from the criteria. The FLC do not create purely objective guidelines for decision-making. Nonetheless, that is practically impossible and unrealistic. Therefore, the attempt towards increased objectivity can be viewed as a success in itself.

The fact that the criteria promote the use of scientific language in CoP discussions depicts this achievement. It creates the incentive to phrase arguments using a neutral vocabulary, which enables more peaceful debates between Parties. This results in more productive CoP, as members are more likely and able to reach constructive compromises. Furthermore, the lessening of arguments also reduces the likelihood that Parties will enter reservations, or even leave the Convention. Biological evidence provides plausible justifications for why certain decisions are being taken, which allows for domestic backing on controversial topics. Although the scientific criteria itself may not be able to directly create objective decision-making, the fact that it encourages scientific discourse at the CoP is an indirect accomplishment. Political views and motivations can never be fully excluded, as decisions taken by human beings unavoidably involve subjective opinions and can never be truly unbiased. However, introducing neutral language does provide a more productive environment within which decisions can be taken and is a positive step towards removing political pressure.

The major setback of the FLC is the lack of availability of data, which is required to make informed decisions using the criteria. Although the criteria seem theoretically sound, it is their practical application that is questioned. For a listing decision to conform with the criteria, it must be based on reliable and adequate scientific information. Yet, in most cases, the required data is either not available or manipulated by Member States. This depicts the hindrance of listing decisions due to biased data provided by Parties, resulting in political views getting involved. However, due to modernization and development of technology, unbiased data is becoming more readily available. Even though it may be costly and not yet present for all species, it illustrates that the applicability of the criteria will gradually become more successful as data becomes available.

iii. Listing Amendments:

The Fort Lauderdale CoP took the first initiative in improving the unsatisfactory Bern CoP guidelines, which were then further developed at the 13th CoP. The species listed under any of the three appendices can, in theory, be moved, but there are suggestions that this still remains practically difficult. Down-listing a species requires scientific evidence that the species can endure the exploitation, which must be shown by a documented population survey, an indication of the popular trend and an analysis of its potential for commercial trade. Due to the recurring problem of lack of data availability, producing such documentation may be problematic, therefore resulting in the inability of species to be down-listed. Arguably, the two-third majority voting requirement is seen as an additional inflexibility that limits the down-listing process. However, the stringent requirements, of sufficient scientific evidence, prove that moving a species to a lower level of protection will not interfere with its survival. This clearly justifies the use of the strict requirements that CITES adheres to for this procedure. On one hand, it is essential to ensure that the CoP does not abuse down-listing. On the other hand, keeping a species that no longer requires a trade ban in Appendix I would weaken its severity, therefore the possibility of down-listing protects the appendices, as well as the Convention as a whole, from not being undermined. This mechanism ensures that decision-making is facilitated without compromising the credibility of the CoP.

Debatably, however, the problem lies with de-listing, rather than down-listing. The language of the FLC for de-listing appears more restrictive than that of the criteria for listings. However, this can be justified by the precautionary approach taken. Being able to wholly de-list species from the Convention should only be done in cases where the species has first been transferred from Appendix I to II and there has been additional evidence to prove that this will not pose threats to its existence. This should not be taken lightly, as moving a species from having the protection of Appendix II to having none at all is a significant change. Overall, the difficult conditions of down-listing and de-listing are easily warranted by the importance of the consequences attached to them, illustrating the success that the FLC have had on the Convention.

The introduction of split-listing species has the possibility of improving the effectiveness of the Convention. If the species as a whole does not meet the requirements of Appendix I, the sub-population, which may require increased protection, would not receive it. Therefore, split-listing introduces a method to protect sub-populations that are particularly endangered. This mechanism results in the reduction of contentiousness at the CoP for the specific species. Although the theoretical advantages are evident, the practical implementation appears challenging. The origins of samples of the more protected sub-population would probably be concealed, so that they could be traded into areas where the population is not as severely protected, therefore demonstrating the obstacles in limiting their trade. The enforcement officials would need to be informed and active in detecting which sub-population is being traded, which would require new and creative implementation methods, as current techniques are not suitable. The CoP itself expressly states that split-listing should be avoided due to the “enforcement problems it creates.” Through this acknowledgement, it is evident that such provision should only be used in extreme circumstances, when split-listing is the only way for a threatened sub-population to attain the required protection. Notwithstanding its enforcement issues, the CoP have introduced it because of the necessity for its presence in exceptional conditions.

In regard to the amendment process of the listing procedure as a whole, the CoP have provided an effective way of dealing with difficult situations. They have had to balance the stringent guidelines, for ensuring the protection of trade of endangered species, with the flexibility required to ensure that the Convention would not be weakened. Although all amendment decisions should be taken with care, the possibility illustrates the adaptability of CITES to the continuously changing nature of the trade of species.

3. The Structure of CITES:

The CoP and Secretariat are the two main responsible bodies for CITES. The Parties have the right to use the mechanisms of reservations and secret voting, which are controversial. As for the Secretariat, there is debate surrounding the amount of unfettered power involved in the position.

a. Reservations:

Reservations are unilateral statements made by any Party, declaring that they remove themselves from being bound to a certain listing provision of the Convention. This weakens the Convention considerably, as it provides a mechanism which allows Member States to simply disregard the binding provisions of CITES. There is no requirement of proof or explanation for why a Party wishes to not comply with the listing. Even if there is valid scientific evidence suggesting that a certain species should be protected, States can blatantly ignore this and follow their close minded and personal preferences, which makes scientific decision-making harder to achieve. However, there are limitations on reservations for species in Appendix I or II, which are that the Party must do so either when they join the Convention or within 90 days of the adoption of the listing amendment. This attempts to place restrictions on entering reservations. Further, the 14th CoP has sought to directly address implementation issues by introducing a provision that ensures that Parties who enter reservations for Appendix I species should treat the species as if it were under Appendix II, and therefore still control and record its trade data. This illustrates that the CoP acknowledges the issues that arise from reservations. The justification for providing this mechanism is that enforcing stricter impositions could result in countries not joining the Convention, due to its voluntary joining policy. This gives the Parties a sense of liberty, which is one of the features that attracts States to join in the first place. Although certain reservations seem to undermine the enforcement of CITES, in general most provisions are adhered to by all countries.

b. Secret Ballot:

The Rules of Procedure for the CoP include the ability to vote through secret ballot. In order for this to be done, a country’s request must be seconded by at least ten other Parties. Secret ballots go against transparency, which is the main reason for Non-Governmental Organisations criticising them. Also, they enable countries to freely ignore the FLC, as they will not be questioned for their vote, which might be taken in aims of pursuing political interests. For this reason, certain Parties have suggested that the CoP Rules increase the number of votes needed to allow secret ballots. Nonetheless, the Rules themselves expressly admit that secret ballots should not be used on a regular basis, but rather when a Party feels like they cannot vote sincerely with the pressure of others. This is normally the case with under-developed countries, as they use the secrecy to protect themselves from the pressure of more developed countries, which is why in such cases their decision is promoted by ten other Parties. Secret voting enables smaller and less powerful countries to preserve their sovereignty. Lastly, secret ballots do not restrict those who wish to disclose their votes, which results in the accountability of developed countries from not being diluted. Although secret ballots should not be the main method of voting in CITES, its availability is supported through the protection that it provides intimidated Parties.

c. Secretariat:

The role of Secretariat is often criticised as being given too much unconstrained power. Firstly, this discretion is depicted by the Secretariat’s exclusive role in evaluating information received from individual states and choosing how to use it for recommendations to the CoP. However, these are merely suggestions and the CoP has the final power in making decisions, illustrating a restriction of the Secretariat’s power, as he is highly incentivised to produce convincing recommendations. The CoP is nonetheless limited, in the sense that they can only accept or reject the Secretariat’s recommendations. Conversely, the fact that the Secretariat’s work is closely related to the CoP, inevitably means that he is closely observed, and any unconvincing activity is discovered.

Furthermore, the ability to create recommendations is wholly based on the provision of information and data by the Members, illustrating their indirect involvement in creating them. Even though Member States will be incentivised to present evidence that backs their personal positions, the Secretariat’s role is to act impartially. The neutrality of the Secretariat is controlled by the fact that recommendations made on behalf of information that follows the listing criteria will be most convincing, and therefore get approved.

Lastly, the Secretariat’s role as exclusive agenda setter gives him a vast amount of authority, which is unusual in international environmental law, as expert groups are usually given this duty. Although the CITES Committees on Plants and Animals can submit proposals, ultimately, they do not hold a fundamental position. While the Secretariat undoubtedly plays a large authoritative role, the CoP’s scrutiny is enough to limit the discretion and ensure that the Secretariat is working impartially for CITES as a whole. This is evidenced by the positive impact made by the current Secretariat, John E. Scanlon, who has, since his appointment in 2010, been making a progressive contribution to the running of CITES.

4. Enforcement:

Instead of setting out specific compliance procedures, the Convention indicates that Parties must comply by implementing national legislation that fulfils CITES’ aims. This has caused the enforcement system to be moulded through secondary legislation and practice. For instance, the most influential document is the ‘Guide to CITES Compliance Procedures,’ which notwithstanding its adoption by the CoP, remains non-legally binding.

a. Data:

CITES’ exclusive reliance on reporting of data from individual countries demonstrates the absence of checks and balances in the enforcement system. The inability or lack of will of some countries to adhere to the reporting requirements means that the information provided regarding national implementation is unreliable. The amount of discretion given to the Parties means that scientific evidence for implementation decisions may be ignored and altered, even to the extent of Parties not updating their systems when listing changes are made. The access to impartial enforcement data is also limited because of the lack of monitoring analysis. The techniques employed to collect trade information are out-dated and not sufficiently efficient to detect new smuggling techniques. The collection of valid data is of utter importance for the Convention as a whole. Although the inability to collect accurate data creates inconsistency in the implementation across countries, the Convention has been making increased attempts at enhancing the quality of data collection.

b. Funding:

In order to ensure effective enforcement, every country must have competent agencies, which is impossible due to the inconsistency in resources. CITES is financed both internally and externally. Internally, the CITES Trust Fund is used to collect contributions by the Parties, based on a scale that takes into account the economic status of the country. Externally, various institutions assist CITES by filling the funding gaps. For instance, the European Union has recently funded 8 million Euros to CITES specifically for the tree species programme and elephant protection. This illustrates the influence that external contributions have on implementation and highlights that the main issue lies within internal funding, as many Parties fail to pay their fees. The calculation of fees in proportion to the country’s economic position appears fair and logical, yet, in 2016 only 44 Parties made their payments. Although this figure has improved, as of October 2017 CITES is still missing £638,324 from financial dues. This money would have a significant impact, as it would enable the improvement of technology, required to address new and refined threats.

Increased funding would facilitate compliance, since adequate equipment for data collection could be provided to all countries, therefore closing the gap. The inequality in financial abilities of the Parties creates problems with uniform implementation. Some have the ability to regulate trade properly, however, less developed countries are clearly unable to do this. The listing decisions further contribute to this disparity, as they create an asymmetrical distribution of costs. New listings place a greater burden on countries that were previously trading the species, not only financially, but also in regard to the livelihood of the society. Therefore, it is impractical for these societies to have to adopt trade restrictions, as their whole economic system relies on it. Imposing implementation responsibilities on national regulation is problematic for achieving consistent compliance, as poorer countries lack the resources to enforce regulations.

Funding could also facilitate compliance through the availability of education. By providing technical assistance and workshops, less evolved countries would become aware of different enforcement methods available. Since most of the countries in difficulty are the ones that previously relied on the listed species, it is important to educate them on how to use other resources to generate their income and uphold their livelihood, as it would result in them more readily implementing CITES decisions. Education is a way for CITES to proactively confront the difficulties these countries are faced with. Decreasing demand for listed species is more effective than simply imposing trade bans that will not be enforced. Although a ban might reduce supply, it might not limit trade if the species has inelastic demand and people are willing to pay higher prices. Figuring out the economic nature of these products is challenging because of the concealed nature of illegal trade, which further emphasises the importance of education. This is illustrated by the educational programme that was launched in Vietnam to reduce the killing of rhinos for their horns, as demand fell 30% in a year. The effectiveness of education should not be undermined, as it has proven to be a successful tool for implementation.

CITES’ chronical underfunding demonstrates the potential of the Convention, as it has accomplished so much notwithstanding the scarcity of resources. To continue improving the protection of species, CITES urgently requires funding to enhance uniform enforcement of regulation. This necessity ultimately relies on Parties, who need to comply with their duties and provide the required financial support. Although CITES could enforce this through stronger consequences and sanctions, doing so might result in countries leaving the Convention. CITES’ enforcement is as successful as it can be with the current funds available, suggesting that its potential would be superior if the required assets existed.

c. Global Collaboration:

Another factor that limits the effectiveness of enforcement is the insufficiency of cooperation. The illegal trade of species is a cross-border concern which requires an international effort. Most Parties fail to nationally implement the four basic conditions of enforcement, which pose concerns. These requirements are that there must be a Management Authority, a Scientific Authority, a prohibition of trade of listed species, accompanied by sanctions and confiscations of the specimen. Uganda, for example, has a Management Authority that consists of a single person who issues permits. Unsurprisingly, this results in irregular documentation, which creates distortion and undermines the whole system and efforts of the Parties that are complying. Not only does communication need to improve between states, but also with the Secretariat, as this will create a platform for consistent enforcement.

Several wildlife implementation networks have already been established at a local level, with the aim of boosting cooperation between states. To expand this effort, the willingness of countries is essential. However, this motivation can be found in their reasons for joining the voluntary Convention in the first place. International conventions encourage national governments to honour global commitments. This incentive should therefore be used to ensure that the four conditions are met, in order to unify the enforcement of Parties. CITES has led to greater public awareness and to some extent strengthened domestic implementation. However, the global issue of wildlife trade imposing serious threats on the existence of species requires a global response, which can only be achieved through increased collaboration.

To improve cross-border cooperation at a wider level, the Liaison Group of Biodiversity-related Conventions was created. The secretariats of each convention meet regularly to collaborate in implementing actions at national and international level. The group ensures that the common aims of conservation and sustainable use are being met. A single convention is unable to confront such great challenges, therefore requiring “all hands on deck.” The establishment of this Group demonstrates the necessity of collaboration in achieving the vast aims of biological diversity, not just between states regarding CITES itself, but also within the authorities. Further, the involvement of CITES, a wildlife related convention, in this Group demonstrates the success it has had in largely contributing to realising broader instruments of biological diversity.

d. Non-Compliance:

Non-compliance with CITES is dealt with both at international and national levels. When Parties fail to comply, the issue is handled by the Convention. Instead, when individuals breach trade regulations, national legislation is used, as Parties implement regulations through domestic law.

i. Non-Compliance with CITES:

Overtime, a unique compliance system has evolved under the Convention. The Standing Committee is the main responsible body for issuing specific measures in cases of non-compliance. This usually concerns Parties either failing to implement national legislation that transposes the desired effects of the Convention or not complying with reporting requirements.

The obvious method used to increase enforcement is sanctions, of which the most severe form consists of a recommended suspension of trade in all species listed under CITES. However, this is the most extreme measure, only used when Parties continuously fail to comply. The most supported method for addressing non-compliance consists of the Standing Committee providing a service of assisting Parties in finding solutions for effective compliance. Relying on this proactive method of implementation, rather than uniquely on a punitive mechanism, enhances the effectiveness of compliance. Although sanctions are ultimately more forceful, most situations of non-compliance stem from the country’s inability to nationally implement CITES. Therefore, providing assistance results in a better outcome, both internationally and domestically, as the number of compliant parties is steadily rising. Even though compliance procedures may be more effective in theory than in actual practice, there is evidence of a positive trend in domestic enforcement.

ii. Domestic Non-Compliance:

Since Parties are given discretion as to how to deal with national implementation of CITES, non-compliance procedures are also left to Member States. Article VIII of CITES requires Parties to have a penalising system for national legislative breaches. The main concern with this procedure is that it creates inconsistency across countries. This, in turn, causes the issue of certain countries’ mechanisms not being sufficiently punitive, and therefore not deterring smuggling and poaching. The discrepancy is also caused by the gaps in practical ability to implement domestic laws. At the 17th CoP, the Parties formally acknowledged the vast effects of corruption on hindering enforcement. The lack of a universal sanctioning system fails to address this problem. Nonetheless, adopting a universal non-compliance system would be difficult to implement and monitor, therefore CITES has had to rely on Parties to positively comply with the given requirements.

The Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997 has introduced European Union compliance regulations. For instance, conviction of falsifying a permit of trade results in a fine and/or imprisonment. This illustrates the gravity of the offence at an EU law level. This legislation, therefore, is translated into the domestic law of all EU Member States. The application of the UK Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulation is seen in the case of Yip v Revenue and Customs Commissioners. The defendant tried re-exporting rhinoceros horns from the UK to Australia, but they were seized by the Border Agency because they failed to comply with their export certificates. It was held that confiscating the items was reasonable and proportionate, since Mr Yip had given inconsistent accounts of what he was going to do with them. This decision depicts the collaboration between Members States of CITES in regulating and stopping illegal trade. The fact that trade of listed species is being discovered demonstrates that domestic legislation for non-compliance is being effective in improving the enforcement of CITES.

5. Case Study on Elephants:

In order to fully assess the successfulness of CITES, I will use the case study of elephants to show the practical achievements and faults. CITES is currently the leading international convention for governing elephants, which automatically places great responsibility on its ability to protect the species. The need to safeguard elephants is continuously increasing, as the amount of poaching raises due to increased demands for ivory. Ivory is a large and lucrative trade market, which illustrates the urgent requirement of international cooperation to address the situation.

Currently, most elephants are listed under Appendix I, as they continue to be threatened by extinction; apart from species in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, which are under Appendix II, illustrating a case of split-listing. These sub-species were down-listed after the ban was introduced and their population numbers stabilized. However, now that poaching is at atmospherically high levels, for 20,000 elephants were killed for ivory in 2015, these populations need to be brought back into Appendix I. The 17th CoP has formally recognized this and has therefore issued a proposal to have all elephants protected by Appendix I. Some countries, such as Botswana, have already taken domestic pre-cautions by voluntarily implementing the trade ban requirements of Appendix I. Nonetheless, some Parties oppose the ban and fight to keep the ivory trade market open. The statistical evidence strongly supports the view of the majority, as there has been an 84-96% decrease in elephants in the past 100 years. It is uncontroversial that something needs to be done in order to prevent their extinction. Although the CoP has been the most ambitious conference so far, their efforts need to be continued and maintained.

a. Poaching:

The main problem with demand for ivory increasing, is that it causes poaching to escalate. Monitoring such activity is onerous, due to its illegal nature and the advanced techniques that are being used. The driving force behind poaching in developing countries is poverty, especially because it creates an environment that allows corruption in the absence of police power. This results in the destabilization of national economies, as well as undermining national security systems. However, poaching has now become more modernized, as poachers are often armed with sophisticated weapons. This is partly a result of organized crime associations and terrorist groups now being the main beneficiaries of illegal trade of ivory. Not only does this result in hundreds of elephant deaths a week, but an estimate of two rangers are killed every week, making poaching an even greater concern.

b. Enforcement Mechanisms:

The main obstacle in restricting trade, as well as killing, is the inability to monitor illegal activity and collect accurate data. Due to limited resources and workforce of the authorities there is lack of transparency. Several organisations have emerged to address this issue. The Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants Programme (MIKE) has developed methods of collecting and analysing data to create better systems of enforcement. Its main objective is to provide CITES with accurate information required to make suitable administrative and enforcement decisions. Due to the lack of funding available to the Convention, the primary financial supporter of MIKE is the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Although this illustrates the practical issue of funding that CITES encounters, it also demonstrates the willingness of organisations to voluntarily provide assistance.

The Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) is another mechanism created to collect data and analyse trends to protect elephants. Its main difference from MIKE is that it focuses specifically on the tracking of trade, rather than on illegal killing. ETIS is also sponsored by various organisations, mainly the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. ETIS and MIKE are now well-established and significantly contribute to providing an adequate and impartial basis for evaluating decision-making of elephant conservation. They have increased transparency and credibility of data and registration, which has enhanced the enforcement of CITES provisions in this area.

National Ivory Action Plans are an additional tool created to help Parties identify their major concerns and issue plans on how to address them. This clearly addresses the problem and ensures that each country is working towards solving their specific troubles, as they commit to enhancing legislation, enforcement and public awareness. The fact that it enables the country itself to issue the plan depicts the successfulness of CITES in understanding that the needs of each individual Party vary, and that they must each be dealt with accordingly.

All these mechanisms demonstrate the positive efforts to limit illegal ivory trade and elephant killing. They illustrate that CITES receives a vast amount of support in implementing and enforcing the Convention. Although the theoretical enforcement issues mentioned earlier are clearly present in the case study of elephants, there is evidence of these concerns being tackled, to allow a successful implementation of the trade bans and restrictions.

c. Domestic Regulation:

CITES’ national implementation depends on each Party adapting their respective domestic legal framework. Due to some of the gaps and weaknesses of the Convention, there are sometimes issues of exploitation. As previously discussed, since sanctions are chosen by the specific countries, the enforcement of the Convention is sometimes weakened. Notwithstanding the potential theoretical loopholes, in practice many of the Parties choose to proactively adopt and enforce the regulations.

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