'Business as usual' will see species wiped out - UN experts

Experts attending the UN wildlife watchdog opening session on Saturday warned that "business as usual" was no longer an option, as an acceleration in wildlife extinction was pushing nature into an unprecedented and "dangerous decline".

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates the buying and selling of species at risk of extinction around the world, opened its main Conference of the Parties (COP) on Saturday.

During the 10-day long meeting, delegates from 183 states, which are signatories of CITES, will consider 56 proposals meant at modifying the level of protection of animals such as elephants, giraffes, rhino, sharks, rays, pangolins or tortoise, but also minerals like rosewood.

The Convention, which already covers nearly 36,000 species, regulate trade either by imposing outright bans or requiring permits so that rare animals and plants are not over-harvested.

Opening the Conference, CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero warned that this COP could not be just business as usual.

"Assessment confirms that nature's dangerous decline is unprecedented, the rate of wildlife extinction is accelerating, with experts affirming that up to 1 million species are now threatened."

While the UN Environment Programme executive-director, Inger Andersen, urged for ambitious decisions and spirit.

"The future of biodiversity is at stake, but as I said earlier, we have a unique opportunity to change the course. 2020 will be the super year for environmental decision making. Paris (climate agreement) will go into effect, the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) post-2020 framework, the oceans conference...we are here setting that stage, your 10-year vision lays the path. 

"We need to ensure the decisions at this COP set the right tone. We must ensure that they inform and drive a more robust and ambitious decision-making to save biodiveristy on our planet. And to ensure that it drives benefits for people, as well as for the biological world."

The fate of mako sharks, rhinos, and precious wood used to make musical instruments, are also on the agenda. African elephants will also focus a great part of attention.



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