BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Sunday, 10 November, 2002, 09:37 GMT
Politics threaten conservation talks
Young mountain gorilla
The world's most endangered species are at stake

Political manoeuvring is seriously undermining efforts to protect some of the world's rarest animals and plants, according to delegates at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).


The level of political wheeling and dealing and trading on the decisions is worse than I've ever seen at any Cites conference previously

Sue Leverman, WWF
National delegations and non-governmental organisations complain that this year's meeting in the Chilean capital, Santiago, is among the most politicised ever.

With allegations of corruption, bribery, espionage and threats, this conference has all the ingredients of a cheap spy thriller - except that at stake is the survival of some of the world's most endangered species.

In principle at least, Cites meetings are supposed to consider simply the science behind those species that are potentially threatened by international trade.

If the threat is real, Cites is supposed to list the species on its appendices and either regulate the trade or ban it completely.

Billion dollar industry

But that is not how the World Wildlife Fund's Sue Leverman describes the process:

A nag made from illegal animal skins
Animal dealing is the world's third largest illegal trade
"Unfortunately, we're seeing tremendous politicisation of the discussion between governments as well, and the level of political wheeling and dealing and trading on the decisions is worse than I've ever seen at any Cites conference previously."

The trouble is that there are billions of dollars at stake here.

Wildlife smuggling is the world's third-largest illicit trade behind drugs and weapons.

Bullying and threats And it is not just about money - governments have powerful domestic political lobbies behind some of the proposals.

That is why, according to the deputy head of Kenya's delegation, Paula Kahumbu, tremendous amounts of political weight get tossed around:

Seahorse
Seahorses are under threat
"There is a massive number of faxes flying back and forth to various countries, presidents being called in to come and tell the delegation to change their position on a certain issue, that kind of thing is going on," he said.

Although delegates refuse to be named, many spoke of being threatened both physically and economically.

There were stories of spying, bugging and computer hacking, and there is good old-fashioned vote-swapping.

Japanese pressure

Ms Leverman says one country tends to throw its weight around more than most:

Japanese whalers
Japan wants to expand trade in minke whales
"Japan wanted support, not only for its whale proposals, but Japan is trying to block all proposals here to deal with fish, including sea horses," she said.

The Japanese deny any wrongdoing, insisting that all they are guilty of is good old-fashioned lobbying to make their views heard above the din of the environmentalists.

But the conference still seems to struggle at times to find the right balance.

You think you are coming to a conservation conference, one exasperated delegate told me, then you realise you are actually at a trade convention.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Peter Van Velsen
"The delegates are considering 59 proposals"
See also:

02 Nov 02 | In Depth
14 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
04 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
13 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes