Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wildlife

Sustainable Use as a Means for Conservation

Our lives take place within complex ecosystems that are composed of wildlife with atmosphere, sunlight, water and soil. Wildlife support ecosystem functioning but are also used by human beings as resources such as food, clothing and medicine. Furthermore, they are subject for scientific research, arts and cultural activities, enriching our lives and bringing comfort. Wild animals and plants are playing essential roles for our wellbeing.

While there are ways to protect them by restriction of their use, international efforts are in place based on the belief that their use itself could potentially provide effective means for conservation of species and ecosystems and local community development.

CITES was adopted in 1973 is the convention, as stated in its preamble that was designed and developed as a mechanism to conserve wild animal and plant species that are endangered due to various reasons by regulating over-exploitation through international trade of wild animals and plants in collaboration within the global community.

In order to achieve its conservation goals by the regulation of international trade under CITES, it is important to understand the following which vary between countries: status of the species concerned; approaches and legal systems for conservation, and the state of international trade including illegal trade.

While over-exploitation can make wild animal and plant species endangered, the economic benefits from international trade of species lead to strong motivations to enable the continued existence of that species into the future. Sustainable use, therefore, may be a means for conservation. Conf. 8.3 (Rev. CoP13) “Recognition of the benefits of trade in wildlife”, adopted at the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP8) to CITES in 1992 states that the parties recognize “that commercial trade may be beneficial to the conservation of species and ecosystems, and to the development of local people when carried out at levels that are not detrimental to the survival of the species in question”, acknowledging the potential benefits that the use of wild animals and plants could bring for the conservation. In fact, there are reports from some state parties that have seen successful population growth in the wild while securing employment and income for local residents through the appropriate management of the commercial use of species listed in the appendices of CITES. This shows how the use of wildlife is a mean that can be leveraged for conservation and is not necessarily always in conflict with conservation.

Sustainable Use in the Global Community

“Sustainable use” is a concept that encapsulates the kind of use which CITES aims to realize, that is, namely the trade “not detrimental to the survival of the species in question”. The concept of “sustainability” was first proposed in 1980, seven years after the adoption of CITES, to mean “sustainable development” and “sustainable use.” This concept was compiled at the World Conservation Strategy [PDF 5.3MB], by international agencies such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The concept gained worldwide support in 1987 when the World Commission on Environment and Development of the United Nations titled “Our Common Future [PDF 4.0MB]” (also known as the Brundtland Report) defined “sustainable development” as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The concept was proposed based on the idea that environmental conservation is essential for sustainable development as the environment and development are inseparable and the development is built on the presence of environment and resources.

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED; also known as the Earth Summit) was held in 1992 and adopted “Agenda 21” as the key principles in achieving sustainable development toward the 21st Century. In the same year, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted to broadly set the general principles on matters related to biodiversity. Its preamble reaffirms that “States are responsible for conserving their biological diversity and for using their biological resources in a sustainable manner”, explicitly incorporating the concept of sustainable use. CBD also stated in Article 1 that “(t)he objectives of this Convention, to be pursued in accordance with its relevant provisions, are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources”, highlighting sustainable use as key principle along with conservation.

Furthermore, Article 2 of CBD defines “sustainable use” as “the use of components of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations”, to specifies what state parties should implement in order to realize the sustainable use of ecosystems, species and genes, that is, the components of biodiversity. CITES, on the other hand, focuses on the conservation of species and provides specific mechanisms that are required for global collaboration to regulate the international trade of species. Nonetheless, its implementation is aligned with the concept of CBD. CITES adopted resolutions to implement decisions taken by CBD under the framework of CITES as well, as in some resolutions adopted for this reason (e.g., Conf. 13.2 (Rev.CoP14)).

Such ideas of CITES are coherent to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of global goals to be achieved by 2030, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015. The SDGs are made up of 17 goals and 169 associated targets. When we look at the interlinkages between the SDGs and CITES, CITES is relevant to many of goals and targets. This is the case with Target 15.7 “Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products” and Target 15.c “Enhance global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species, including by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities” under Goal 15 (Life on Land). Likewise, legal and sustainable use of wildlife contributes to the achievement of many goals and targets within the SDGs, including Goals 1 (No Poverty), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 14 (Life Below Water), 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).