The 69th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee just wrapped up and again nothing was done to address the lax trade regulations that currently allow live great apes to be illegally traded for the exotic pet and commercial zoo industries.
In fact, the CITES Secretariat itself ignored an instruction addressed to it in CITES Resolution Conf. 13.4 ‘Great Apes’, which states in part, “2. DIRECTS the Secretariat to: (d) report to the Standing Committee on the implementation of this Resolution at each of its regular meetings.”
The Secretariat did not prepare a report on Great Apes for this meeting, the only species ignored in this way. If the CITES Secretariat does not follow its own resolutions how can we expect governments to do so?
The Great Apes resolution is desperately in need of wording that would require governments to register all great apes immediately upon importation. Some form of identification should also be employed, such as a DNA profile or inserted microchip. In addition, all individuals and facilities possessing great apes should be required to register each one, with identification, age and sex. Any changes in number should be reported to the government agency responsible for maintaining the registry. Updates on the registries should be reported to CITES, or to an approved entity such as UN-GRASP, at agreed intervals (e.g. annually or at each Conference of the Parties).
If these simple steps were carried out it would be impossible for traffickers to smuggle in apes to a country and claim that they were bred domestically in captivity, which is a common ploy used by traffickers. China has already started to collect DNA profiles on captive great apes in zoos voluntarily, to their credit, but other countries need a bit of direction, which a CITES resolution could provide.
One bright spot in an otherwise dim meeting for apes was the creation of a working group for review of the report on the status of and trade in great apes mandated in Decision 17.232. This long-delayed report is now scheduled to be submitted to the CITES Animals Committee (AC30) in July 2018 for initial review.
If the will is there, the members could use this working group to widen the mandate to include the revision of the Resolution 13.4 on Great Apes. Their report from the Animals Committee could then be submitted to the 70th Standing Committee meeting and a draft resolution could be agreed for review at the CITES 18th Conference of the Parties in Sri Lanka in 2019.
While the Standing Committee was busy ignoring great apes, PEGAS found more of the suffering creatures for sale online.