Wildlife trade convention: Half of WWF’s top ten priorities found in Malaysia | WWF Malaysia

Wildlife trade convention: Half of WWF’s top ten priorities found in Malaysia

Posted on 16 May 2007
Gland, Switzerland / Petaling Jaya, Malaysia...
Ahead of the world’s largest meeting on wildlife trade, WWF, the global conservation organisation, releases its top ten list of animals and plants needing urgent, global, action to reduce threats from trade. And five of these species can actually be found right here in Malaysia.

Delegates from 171 countries are expected to attend the Conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), from 3-15 June in The Hague, The Netherlands.

“CITES provides a framework for countries to effectively regulate wildlife trade and apply conservation measures at an international level”, says Chris R. Shepherd of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, the wildlife trade monitoring network.  “However, without international co-operation, and commitment to implement and enforce laws against wildlife crime, many of these key species will be lost forever”.

Some of the wildlife on WWF’s top ten priority list is among the most endangered. For example, the tiger and Asian rhinos have required constant and urgent action over the past decades, because of ever-present, pervasive threats to their survival, including poaching and illegal trade. Others, particularly marine species, are on the list because their populations have declined massively in recent years due to demand from the global market.

“Malaysia’s global position in providing habitat to some of the most charismatic and endangered flagship mammal species, such as the tiger, Asian elephant and orang-utan has to be recognised and emphasised,” said Dr. Arun Venkataraman, WWF-Malaysia’s National Programme Director. “We reaffirm our strong commitment to the protection of these species in their natural habitats and to providing constructive technical support to our partners in the government and other sectors for the conservation of such wildlife’s habitats”.

WWF’s top ten “to do” list for the world’s governments includes the following fauna and flora:

Tigers – In addition to continuing threats from habitat loss and forest conversion, an old threat is about to re-emerge in China, which could put the last remaining tigers further at risk – the potential re-opening of trade from tiger ‘farms’. WWF calls upon governments to take concerted action to stop all trade in tigers, particularly in China, and to improve enforcement efforts across Asia (e.g., India).

In the Tigers Alive! project, WWF-Malaysia is engaging government agencies, local communities and corporate sectors to address issues such as the need for wildlife corridors, mitigating human-tiger conflict, developing tiger-friendly logging guidelines and carrying out education programmes, in addition to scientific research. Also, along with other partners in the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT), we are working on a National Action Plan to save the Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni).
Asian rhinos – Historically hunted for their horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines, and devastated by the destruction of their lowland forest habitat, Asian rhino populations are now distressingly small. An upsurge in poaching over the last few is taking its toll even on populations that were thought to be stable. WWF calls upon governments to step up enforcement efforts, and assist countries such as Nepal to stop the poaching.

The Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is already extinct in Malaysia. WWF-Malaysia is working with government agencies and corporate sectors to protect the near-extinct Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatranus), the only rhino species remaining in Malaysia and the one most threatened by poaching for trade. We aim to maintain and protect the Sumatran Rhino’s habitat, eradicate poaching, conduct outreach to local communities, and increase research.

Elephants – The ongoing poaching of elephants and illegal international trade in ivory is stimulated by rampant ivory sales in some countries, particularly for East Asian markets. Despite previous CITES decisions, and valiant efforts of some countries, these markets persist. The time has come to put political will behind serious efforts to close down these illegal and unregulated ivory markets, the true driver of elephant poaching.

In Sabah, WWF-Malaysia works with government agencies to reduce threats to the Bornean Pygmy Elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) through AREAS (Asian Rhino Elephant Action Strategy) and the Heart of Borneo programme which aims to connect fragmented lowland forests using corridors.
Great apes – Wild populations of great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees and orang-utans), continue to decline drastically and are threatened by the combined effects of illegal trade in live animals (usually for pets), poaching for meat, disease and habitat disturbance, fragmentation and destruction. WWF calls on governments and CITES to stop this trade – including by adequately enforcing existing laws and imposing deterrent penalties.

WWF-Malaysia works with government agencies, landowners and local communities to save Malaysia’s only great ape, the Bornean Orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus), on many levels through our Borneo Species Programme, Heart of Borneo project and the Kinabatangan – Corridor of Life project.

Red and Pink Coral (Corallium spp.) – A jewel that comes from reefs and atolls, it is the most valuable of all the precious corals. Pink Coral has been extracted for over 5,000 years and used for jewellery and decoration. Over-harvesting and the destruction of entire colonies by bottom trawls and dredges have led to dramatic population declines. WWF calls on governments to include all species of Red and Pink Coral in CITES Appendix II.

At least one species, Corallium borneense, is found in Malaysian waters. Malaysia also imports Corallium from Taiwan and Japan, which is made into jewellery and then re-exported to the United States.

Other species on the list include Porbeagle (Lamna nasus), a powerful, medium-sized shark highly valued for its meat and fins; Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias), a smaller, slender white-spotted shark also known as rock salmon, used in fish and chips in the UK and as a smoked meat delicacy in Germany called Schillerlocken; Sawfish (Pristidae spp.), whose distinctive saw-like snouts are sold as souvenirs and ceremonial weapons whilst other body parts are used for traditional medicines; European Eel (Anguilla anguilla), for which there is significant international demand, both for adults whose meat is highly valued and live juvenile eels (shipped from Europe to Asia) for rearing in aquaculture; and Bigleaf Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), a highly valuable South and Central American rainforest timber species that was listed in CITES Appendix II in 2002, in response to population declines and high levels of illegal logging and trade.

•    For information on all of WWF’s positions go to www.panda.org/species/cites

•    Species are listed on one of three Appendices according to the level of threat they face:
Appendix I bans international commercial trade in species.
Appendix II regulates international trade in species that may be threatened without regulation of the level of trade. Commercial trade is allowed on the condition that specimens are legally obtained and that the trade is not detrimental to the wild population.
Appendix III lists species that are protected in at least one country, where that country has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the species trade.

•    This is the first time the CITES Conference has been held in the European Union, and will see the largest-ever such gathering devoted to the trade in endangered species.

For further information:
Eza Dzul Karnain, Media & Public Affairs Coordinator, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +603 7803 3772 ext 6103, Email: edzulkarnain@wwf.org.my

Chris R. Shepherd, Senior Programme Officer, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia,
Tel: +603 7880 3940, Email: cstsea@po.jaring.my