Oh, and don’t forget that the world has had a digital revolution since the 1970s, in which CITES has not taken part; how much longer does a multi-billion dollar legal trade need to rely on typed, paper permits? Of course CITES needs to be modernised, but the need to do so was equally evident when Scanlon was Secretary-General and he didn’t make any attempt to instigate modernisation.
Scanlon goes on to say “We now need to fully embed this in the international criminal justice framework,”; my response is no John, actually it needed to be embedded in the international criminal justice framework decades ago, the interesting question is why wasn’t it? I would have been interested in Louise Boyle asking that question. When Scanlon was Secretary General of CITES, between 2010 and 2018, the industrialised scale of poaching already started to receive more mainstream media attention. So why was CITES unable to have the trafficking of endangered species included under the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime? It has long been accepted that wildlife and timber crime is the 4th-largest transnational crime in the world, so why has it not been officially recognised?
There are so many statements that need interrogating here. Scanlon remarks that the illegal trade in pangolins is at a record high, despite having the highest-level of protection under CITES. But he failed to mention that pangolins were only put on to Appendix I in 2016; it was the lack of monitoring of pangolin trade while it was still on Appendix II that was a huge part of the problem. The USA was a key destination for pangolin, check out the cowboy boots; the trade consisted of manufactured leather goods, skins, scales and meat.
In reviewing the legal pangolin trade data, researchers found all the usual CITES permit and database discrepancies as seen for other traded species. They also reported that pangolins were exported with CITES certificates labelled captive bred [C] from countries where there is no evidence of pangolin farming (the same as has been found for python skin). Most interesting is the fact that even after CITES put zero export quotas on pangolin in 2000, no one at CITES has apparently questioned or explained why permits for commercial trade in these specimens were still issued post 2000.
This is not the time to develop another, under-resourced convention. Remember that even though Scanlon established the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) with funding of US$20 million, this is pocket change compared to the illicit trade valued at up to US$258 billion annually in the 2017 world Customs Organisation Illicit Trade Report.