To be clear, their one trick pony example is about the Australian crocodile industry clinically sidestepping the fact that Australia’s GDP per capita is US$52,000 compared to Cambodia’s GDP per capita at US$1,500, Viet Nam’s US$2,800 and Thailand’s US$7,200. Similarly, the fact that the combined population of the three countries is 7-times the Australian population is conveniently ignored.
Also ignored by CITES are the luxury brands frankly meaningless in-house, voluntary certification schemes, which have grown in recent decades as the independent global regulator has been impoverished to the point of being useless. The fact that the CITES regulator provided an exemption for captive bred species under Article VII, paragraph 4, right from the time it came into force, in 1975, is just one example of the loopholes that need to be addressed by a review and the modernisation of the CITES convention. As a reminder the CITES convention has had just one review since it came into force in 1975, that single review happened in 1994.
Any future review must consider the purpose of captive breeding of Appendix I species Article VII, paragraph 4. Why? Because currently CITES makes no stipulation about deriving any conservation or community benefit from such operations. As long as ‘sustainable use’ that benefits wild populations and local communities remains an accidental outcome of trade and CITES processes, rather than formally built into the regulation process, any examples touted by CITES or the IUCN should be seen for what they really are – propaganda to further the ‘sustainable use’ agenda.
Captive breeding of wild animals is big business.
At the start of the pandemic 20,000 captive breeding facilities were closed in China alone and many more in other countries. While this isn’t all about species listed under CITES for trade restrictions, it is important to consider 1) that the legal trade is consuming these species, effectively unmonitored and unregulated, at an alarming rate and 2) it takes on average 12 years for a species to be protected by CITES once that species is identified by the IUCN Red List as being threatened by trade; some species have already been waiting up to 24 years to be listed under CITES after first being identified by the IUCN Red List.
Species are listed on CITES Appendix I only when the wild population is under extreme threat, like the white and black rhinoceros. The exemption under Article VII, paragraph 4 to allow commercial trade in such species can lead to perverse conservation outcomes, as with the Siamese crocodile. Moves by the private rhino owners in South Africa to push for commercial trade of rhino horn under this exemption should be seen for what they are – a simple play to make a profit.