CITES MEETING

Loss of iconic species shocking, UNEP says

Populations of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish fell 60 per cent between 1970 and 2014

In Summary
  • One million out of the nearly eight million species on earth could be lost this century
  • But there is increased awareness helped by activists, media, policymakers, scientists and politicians
Wildebeests cross the Mara River.
Wildebeests cross the Mara River.

The rate at which species are being lost is baffling and never seen before, the United Nations has warned.

“The populations of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish fell 60 per cent between 1970 and 2014,” UNEP’s executive director Inger Andersen said.

Andersen made her remarks on Saturday during the opening of the 18th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

The leaders, including Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, are talking about international wildlife trade, worth billions of dollars annually.

CITES is an international agreement among governments aimed at ensuring international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

It came into force in 1975.

Andersen said sustaining life on earth has taken centre stage, helped by young activists, media, policymakers, scientists, politicians and society at large.

"We have a chance to take advantage of this groundswell of support. It may well be our last chance," she said.

Andersen who recently assumed her role in Nairobi cited a global assessment that showed iconic species were being lost at an alarming rate.

At least one million out of the nearly eight million species on earth are to be lost this century unless urgent action is taken.

 
 
 

"Habitat destruction shows no sign of abating, with humanity gobbling up land for agriculture, infrastructure and urban expansion," she said.

She, however, noted that increasing public awareness and involvement can change the tide.

Andersen said CITES is about balance between the need to protect species of plants and animals from extinction and the need for nations to use these resources for trade, growth and development.

She said CITES has succeeded in reversing some of the challenges.

Andersen said UNEP remains committed to working with the CITES secretariat and with state parties to bring more success in advancing sustainable trade in wildlife and plants.

She said wild animals, fish and plants support the basic needs of some of the world’s poorest people.

However, over-harvesting has jeopardized wild populations and limit future trade potential.