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Cites conference Geneva summit mulls rules on trading protected animals and plants

Pile of elephant tusks

Switzerland will oppose an appeal to ease restrictions of the trade in elephant ivory.

(Keystone / National Parks Board / Handout)

Swiss Home Affairs minister Alain Berset opened a global conservation conference in Geneva on Saturday by calling for greater international cooperation to preserve endangered animals and plants.

The 18thConvention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Floraexternal link (Cites) has attracted delegates from 180 countries for the summit that runs from August 17 to 28. The conference venue was due to have been hosted by Sri Lanka but was moved to Switzerland following the Easter bomb attacks in the Asian country.

Switzerland is a contracting party and the depositary state for Cites while hosting its secretariat. The body, set up in 1975, regulates international trade in 5,800 animal species and more than 30,000 plant species.

The headline debate on the summit’s agenda is whether to ease restrictions on the trade in elephant ivory. This controversial proposal has been put forward by five countries but is likely to be met with opposition from others, including Switzerland.

The summit will focus on 21 applications for protection for more than 200 species that are threatened by the international pet trade.

Switzerland has signaled support for most of the requests for reptiles and amphibians and will ask for information regarding sustainability of the trade in ornamental sea fish. It will call for tighter restrictions on the trade in rays, sharks and sea cucumbers.

The Swiss delegation will vote in favour of an exception to the Cites provisions for pre-packaged Cape Aloe products that are used in large quantities in the cosmetics industry.

Earlier this week the Swiss government said it wanted to tighten up the Federal Act on the Trading of Animals and Plants of Protected Species to upgrade some violations to criminal offences in the Swiss legal code. The proposed law changes would also make it impossible for traders of protected species to remain anonymous.

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