14 July 2008The trade in elephants, rhinos, tigers and mahogany will all be the focus of this week’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Geneva, whose secretariat is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “Innovative and courageous solutions are required to correct the spiral of species decline,” saidCITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers in a statement today at the start of the conference.“This has been recognized this week by the leaders of the G-8 group of countries, who expressed their commitment to promote a co-benefits approach that will lead to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, while reducing illicit trade in wildlife, and to improve the interface between research activities and the public and policy makers,” he added.Among other issues, 300 representatives from the 173 member States of CITES will discuss the quantities of raw ivory stockpiled in four southern African countries which have been approved for export. Under an agreement reached last year, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were authorized to make a single sale of all government-owned stocks of ivory that were registered by the end of 2007.The agreement stipulates that after these shipments have been completed no further sales are to be considered by CITES for a period of nine years.The convention will also focus on the controversial subject of tiger farming in Asia. CITES has decided that captive populations of tigers should be restricted to numbers that would support wild tiger conservation and that tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts. This week, it will hear about efforts to combat the continuing illegal trade in tiger skins and bones, as well as in those of other big cats such as leopards.The levels of exports of mahogany from the Amazon basin will also be discussed. CITES says the current timber verification system is insufficient and notes that new systems are under development to ensure that the harvest is sustainable and the trade is legal.CITES is also seeking to set up a multi-national task force to deal with the problem of the illegal trade in rhinoceros horn. Rhino populations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), India, Mozambique, Nepal, South Africa and Zimbabwe are suffering from poaching. In DRC scientists fear that the rhino population has been wiped out.