May 23, 2005 03:00 ET

Canada uncommitted to protecting wildlife

Update on the most important environmental agreement you've never heard of Attention: Agriculture Editor, Assignment Editor, Environment Editor, News Editor VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - May 23, 2005) - Canada is not meeting its obligation to implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) - the most important and effective global wildlife conservation agreement in existence - according to a new report by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, entitled CITES, Eh? CITES is an international agreement between 167 countries that protects more than 30,000 species of animals and plants from over-exploitation. Canada was the tenth nation to ratify CITES, bringing it into force on July 9, 1975. Thirty years later, Canada is still not providing the human and financial resources to adequately administer or enforce the Convention.

"The inadequacies in Canada's CITES programme can be traced to insufficient resources for administering and enforcing the convention", stated Ernie Cooper, the National Representative of TRAFFIC in Canada (TRAFFIC works in co-operation with the Secretariat of CITES and is a joint programme of WWF and IUCN - the World Conservation Union). " It appears that CITES is not a priority for the Canadian government as a whole or for Environment Canada, the department charged with ensuring that the Convention is effectively implemented. The offices for the CITES management and scientific authorities are understaffed and cannot carry out all of their responsibilities."

There are about 50 federal wildlife enforcement officers in Canada. Less than half are dedicated to CITES enforcement and only about eight are actually involved in inspecting the movement of wildlife into Canada to try and catch illegal shipments of endangered species. "The government of Canada needs to provide Environment Canada with the resources to hire at least 100 more wildlife enforcement officers," Cooper stated.

Canada is an exporter of its native wildlife and a significant importer of exotic species - sometimes including threatened and endangered species such as tigers and rhinos. "However, despite the good legislative base for implementing CITES, there is a long list of gaps in Canada's administration and enforcement of the Convention - gaps that affect the conservation of wildlife around the globe and not just Canada," said Cooper.

Examples of Canada's wildlife trade include:

· In 2004, an Ontario man was convicted of illegally exporting bear gallbladders.
· Every year more than 10,000 black bears are exported as trophies.
· In 2003, authorities intercepted a shipment of more than 2,000 packages of medicine made from leopard bone (an endangered species).
· In 2002, approximately 400,000 kg of frogs' legs were imported from Vietnam into Canada. This was done in more than 40 shipments, but Vietnam only issued permits for 8 of those shipments.
· In 2003, a Manitoba plant nursery was convicted of illegally importing more than 200 endangered orchid plants.

"Nobody really knows all the species of live animals and plants that enter Canada every year. This has implications not only for conservation, but for agriculture and even human health," remarked Cooper, "In 2000, a Quebec man was convicted of illegally importing endangered butterflies in a 'hollowed out' hardcover book sent through the mail".

Canadians can support WWF's TRAFFIC program by going to wwf.ca. WWF-Canada is currently running a campaign to raise awareness and money to stop the illegal trade of tiger parts.

When a country joins CITES it must adopt its own domestic legislation to make sure that the Convention is administered and enforced within its borders. In 1992, Canada drafted the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) to enforce CITES, although this did not come into force until 1996, when the enabling regulations-the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations (WAPTR)- took effect.

"WAPPRIITA meets or surpasses the legislative needs of CITES," Cooper noted. "In fact, despite it having taken more than 20 years in its making, WAPPRIITA can now be considered a good model for developing or strengthening domestic legislation for implementing CITES in other countries. But before this can be done, we urgently need to start setting an example of effective implementation on a practical level to the rest of the world."

CITES, Eh?, provides a detailed set of recommendations resulting from the analysis of Canada's administration and enforcement of CITES. Execution of these recommendations would drastically improve Canada's implementation of the Convention and enhance the country's role in international wildlife conservation.

TRAFFIC hopes that the report released today will serve as an incentive for the Canadian government to fulfill its obligations to CITES and do its part to ensure the survival of the world's endangered species.

The full report titled CITES, Eh? A Review of Canada's Implementation of CITES Under WAPPRIITA is available at www.wwf.ca and www.traffic.org.

For more information and to arrange interviews with Ernie Cooper, the senior author of the report, please contact:

Ernie Cooper, Canada National Representative, TRAFFIC North America
Tel: (604) 678-5152, cell: (604) 341-2358, E-mail: ecooper@wwfcanada.org
Maija Sirola, Communications Coordinator of TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK
Tel. +44 (0) 1223 277 427, email: maija.sirola@trafficint.org

Notes to editors:

TRAFFIC - The wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC recognizes the diversity of cultural perspectives related to the use of wildlife and collaborates with a wide range of other partners, many governments and other organizations. TRAFFIC works in co-operation with the Secretariat of CITES and is a joint programme of WWF and IUCN - the World Conservation Union. www.traffic.org
CITES - The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora regulates international trade in more than 30,000 species of wild animals and plants. The Convention is currently applied in 167 countries, including Canada. www.cites.org

WAPPRIITA - Legislation protecting Canadian and foreign species of animals and plants that may be at risk of overexploitation because of illegal trade. It is also to safeguard Canadian ecosystems from the introduction of species considered to be harmful by controlling the international trade of certain wild animals and plants, as well as their parts and derivatives. www.cites.ec.gc.ca/eng/sct4/index_e.cfm

Environment Canada is the lead agency for CITES implementation in Canada. www.cites.ec.gc.ca/default.cfm

/For further information: Ernie Cooper, Canada National Representative, TRAFFIC North America
Tel: (604) 678-5152, cell: (604) 341-2358, E-mail: ecooper@wwfcanada.org

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