Thailand fails to get crocodiles delisted
CITES votes to keep Siamese and saltwater crocs under protection listThailand has failed to get major support from members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to downgrade the protection for Siamese and saltwater crocodiles.
These two crocodiles are included in the list of 600 species threatened with extinction, and international trade in them or their parts is prohibited under CITES Appendix I.
However, the Fisheries Department called on the 129 nations present at the meeting to back Thailand to downgrade these two crocodile species from Appendix I to Appendix II so the Kingdom can continue exporting crocodile parts and products. This meeting was part of the 16th CITES summit being held in Bangkok from March 3-14.
Thailand is believed to have more than 200 crocodiles in the wild nationwide, while some 200,000 Siamese and 20,000 saltwater crocs are being bred in the 800 commercial crocodile farms across the country. Crocodile skin, meat and related products can earn the country more than Bt4 billion a year.
For the proposal related to protection of Siamese crocodiles, 69 of the countries present said yes, 49 were against it and 11 abstained, while 61 voted for lifting protection on saltwater crocodiles, 54 were against it, six abstained and the rest chose not to vote. However, the proposals could not go through because they did not get the two-thirds majority required under CITES regulations.
"Countries who are against the proposal believe Thailand has too few crocodiles in the wild," Fisheries Department director-general Wimol Jantrarotai said.
The proposal won support from China, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Congo, Costa Rica, Albania, Columbia, Venezuela, Cameroon and Cambodia, while those against it were the United States, the European Union, Belgium, Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden.
The failure to have the two species de-listed will block Thailand's export of crocodile products, especially to the biggest buyers including the US, until it can prove the species are being preserved in their natural habitat.
Wimol said his department would submit the proposals once again at the main CITES meeting next week, but Thailand needed to win at least a one-third majority from the 150 countries attending the meeting in order to put the issue back on the agenda.
"We will explain that only crocodiles from commercial farms will be used, not those living in the wild," he said, adding that the department would ensure that Thailand is able to increase the number of crocs in the wild.
Meanwhile, the CITES meeting has studied 21 of the 70 proposals submitted by 55 countries in relation to the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife and timber. So far, about 14 proposals have been endorsed, including the protection of the Percy Island flying fox proposed by Australia. The species has been upgraded from Appendix II to Appendix I.
However, four proposals that were not endorsed include the one for polar bears, which the US wanted to be upgraded from Appendix II to I.
Next week, Thailand will seek a two-thirds majority for another proposal to list Siamese rosewood in Appendix II. Meanwhile, the proposal for marine species such as sharks and manta rays will be back in the limelight as CITES seeks to gain a balance between trade and conservation.