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UAE reinstated to CITES

posted on 17/03/2002: 1854 views

Rapid action on the part of the UAE Government has resulted in the country being fully reinstated into the global Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, the CITES Secretariat announced yesterday, one day after the four-day meeting of its Standing Committee in Geneva.

The UAE's reinstatement is attached to several groundbreaking wildlife management and conservation reforms shortly to be implemented within the emirates, including a national registry for falcons and tough legislation adopted into the UAE's legal framework. In response to those pledges of reform, the top committee agreed to withdraw its recommendation of trade suspension with the UAE in three phases.

The November recommendation, issued over concerns about caviar smuggling and illicit trade in animals such as houbara bustard, cheetah and falcons, meant that the 154 countries party to the Convention would not trade in protected species with the UAE.

After four months of frantic behind-the-scenes activity at federal and local government levels, a six-member delegation from the UAE's Federal Environment Agency, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Abu Dhabi-based Environment and Research Wildlife Development Agency (ERWDA) made its way to the March 12 - 15 Geneva meeting to present the nation's case to the Convention.

Their efforts were rewarded with CITES' issuance of a three-step normalisation process. Although the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will still not issue Convention documentation for commercial operations, trade for non-commercial purposes other than the movement of live birds of prey will be permitted immediately.

"Scientific, educational, conservation and private collections will be able to resume their work with the protected species," said Dr Frederic Launay, head of the WWF-UAE project and liaison to ERWDA, speaking to Gulf News from France. "The first phase applies to everything concerning non-commercial trade in any species except falcons."

Under the terms of the November suspension, its member countries would not accept or issue the documentation needed for the transfer of Convention-listed animals to and from the UAE. As the forum covers more than 30,000 species of animals and plants from the Arabian leopard to chimpanzees, the suspension also hurt missions such as the breeding centres in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

The second phase of the suspension lifting involves the introduction of a domestic registry for live falcons used for non-commercial purposes such as hunting. After the registry is completed and confirmed by the Convention Secretariat, the global organisation will withdraw its prohibition on cross-border movements of those falcons. "The birds will be registered regardless of who they belong to," said Dr Launay, a member of the UAE's delegation to Geneva.

"It will make things more transparent and easier to control, and it will make life much easier for everyone, including the falconers. They will not need permits to take their birds out of the country and bring them back again."

Dr Launay said work on the registry had begun in recent weeks, and the government required the help and support of the nation's falcon hospitals in this regard. "There is a very good network of falcon hospitals around the country that will be asked to help in the movement," he said. Standing Committee members also decided that the UAE's commercial trade in listed species will remain suspended but will be reconsidered when the committee next meets in November. Not coincidentally, that is the same month targeted for the introduction of new CITES-related legislation in the UAE.

Although the final draft of the legislation is ready, it is only expected to become federal law in November, one year after the suspension was originally recommended. Despite the lag time, the efforts made by the FEA, ERWDA and the MAF in the last few months and their expected impact have been nothing short of groundbreaking. (The Gulf News)


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