Why the global wildlife trading system is an absolute sham

Support us and go ad-free

The essential and gorgeously diverse array of life on Earth is disappearing fast. That’s a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions*, as a future planet without teeming lifeforms would be both desperately dull* and unlivable for humans.

One global body has immense power in whether we turn this travesty around. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, aka CITES, is the UN body that decides whether trade in wildlife species at risk of disappearing is allowed or not. 

In a nutshell, CITES is a global agreement between most of the world’s governments that holds the fate of around 38,000 of the most threatened species on the planet in its hands. Its primary purpose is meant to be ensuring that trade doesn’t drive species to extinction, but if CITES were a person it would have been fired by now for gross incompetence*. 

For example, African lions are declining rapidly, with as few as 13,000 of them estimated to be left in the wild. But CITES chooses not to include them in the list of species needing the highest protections. CITES does include minke whales* on that list, which means that, except in the rarest of circumstances, no-one is allowed to trade them commercially. Yet the body stands by and does sweet FA as countries like Norway do exactly that

CITES also effectively exempts trophy hunting, aka killing for kicks, from trade restrictions, by classifying the so-called sport as ‘not commercial’ – despite the fact that it’s an industry drowning in blood-soaked cash. Oh, and a catastrophic global pandemic that likely originated in the wildlife trade has happened under CITES’ watch.

The UN body has also recently been hit with two legal challenges, on behalf of the filmmaker and author Karl Ammann. The legal complaints are over the trading of elephants and chimpanzees to China. The cases allege numerous violations of CITES wildlife trading rules and paint a picture of a system that’s rife with corruption, rule-bending, and fraud.

Coordination of the global wildlife trade involving most of the world’s governments is understandably no easy task. But given the clear and present danger the wildlife trade poses to the world’s remaining species, and the continuing livability of the planet, CITES needs to operate like a tight ship. Right now, unfortunately, it’s about as fit for purpose as the Titanic.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Support us and go ad-free

Do your bit for independent journalism

Did you know that less than 1.5% of our readers contribute financially to The Canary? Imagine what we could do if just a few more people joined our movement to achieve a shared vision of a free and fair society where we nurture people and planet.

We need you to help out, if you can.

When you give a monthly amount to fund our work, you are supporting truly independent journalism. We hold power to account and have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence the counterpoint to the mainstream.

You can count on us for rigorous journalism and fearless opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right wing mainstream media.

In return you get:

  • Advert free reading experience
  • Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
  • 20% discount from our shop


The Canary Fund us
  • Show Comments
    1. Amusing, Tracy. But nonsense of the testicular type.
      CITES is there to regulate trade, not ban it. It can only regulate legal trade, which it does as best it can between the conflicts of interest.
      Legal hunting provides facts and figures and is scientifically controlled. Illegal wildlife trade couldn’t give a monkey’s about any rules, so a ban on legal hunting would merely give ALL of the trade to crims. Then you wouldn’t have ANY control. The wildlife would disappear.
      There is not a single case of trophy hunters wiping out any animal species in Africa in modern times. There is not a single case of a pandemic caused by legal hunters or legal, regulated traders.
      All of the problems you moan about are caused by criminals, human population, or the unregulated bushmeat trade, but because you can’t do anything about it, you pick on CITES and mislead yourself and readers.
      CITES isn’t perfect, but the concept of Animal Rights (AR) is even more dangerous for wildlife. AR souls believe they are helping, but they are not. They are just AR souls. Instead of chundering on about getting rid of CITES, it would be better to improve the bad bits that you love to concentrate on so myopically.
      Africa’s wildlife, like wildlife in lots of places, faces REAL competition from human population growth and loss of habitat. In that sense, cows, goats, soya and palm oil kill billions of wild animals whereas legal hunting (and CITES) produces and protects more animals and more habitat.
      Shouting at CITES and legal hunters and traders is like shouting at shoppers because you hate shoplifters. It’s a bit misguided and unhelpful, Tracy.
      But it is amusing, and the fluffies believe you.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.