Magazine article Endangered Species Bulletin

Celebrating 40 Years of International Wildlife Conservation

Magazine article Endangered Species Bulletin

Celebrating 40 Years of International Wildlife Conservation

Article excerpt

A decade of change, the 1970s saw the breakup of the Beatles, the wind-down of the Vietnam War, and the growth in women's rights. This point in history also brought an unprecedented surge of environmentalism. The science of ecology continued to mature, building recognition of the profound impact changes in land-use and the deterioration of our environment had on people and wildlife alike. A groundswell of public awareness of environmental problems and support for wildlife conservation spurred political activism. Passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972 addressed polluted skies and waterways. Comprehensive wildlife conservation laws were soon to follow.

One of the greatest threats to the survival of some of the world's most charismatic species was the incredible amount of international trade in products derived from them. The problem stemmed from the ever-increasing demand for wildlife parts. Specifically the demand for ivory in Europe and the U.S. soared in the '70s, with little regard for its impact on the long-term survival of species. Killing of elephants for their ivory rose to levels not seen since the start of the century--eliminating nearly half of Africa's total elephant population. Poaching of Africa's rhinos for their horns escalated, as it did with tortoises for their shells, and tigers for their pelts. And advanced technology had made it possible--and effortless--to ship wildlife to nearly anywhere in the world.

With poaching and trafficking nearing crisis levels, society and its Congress called for action--a commitment to protect the wild fauna and flora, in their many beautiful and varied forms, for generations to come. Growing concern over the unprecedented international decline of wildlife led to the drafting of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in March 1973. CITES, as it is more commonly known, remains the only global treaty to protect wildlife and plants against over-exploitation. The U.S. was the first country to ratify the Convention--its signatory list now totals 177.

To implement CITES, all members must develop wildlife protection laws in their countries and establish a Management Authority to issue trade permits for wildlife products, as well as a Scientific Authority to provide scientific expertise on the status of species considered for trade. For the U. …

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