The crocodile bag – harm or benefit for conserving the species?
* N.B. Everything indicated below refers to crocodile leather products; Such information, however, also applies to python leather products. Principles and ideas are quite similar.
Imagine a chic leather crocodile bag displayed in the showcase of a trendy boutique in the city centre. How do you feel looking at it? Enchanted by its exclusivity and driven by the desire to buy it right away? Bothered by the use of the skin from an exotic animal? Or totally indifferent? Have you ever heard of Cites?
“But what does a crocodile bag have to do with CITES? And, above all, what does it have to do with me?” – You may be asking yourself and you are right, because this connection, tough direct and immediate, is not obvious and familiar to many of us.
Nevertheless, it is precisely through compliance with CITES regulations that the purchase of this bag not only will not harm the environment, but will also stimulate the growth of these animals in their natural habitat.
You don’t believe it? It is, however, exactly the case! Let’s see together how it works.
The key principle.
The main purpose of CITES is to safeguard the natural ecosystem of our planet.
CITES is intended to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild plants and animals does not threaten their survival, doing everything possible to eliminate illegal trade and ensure the sustainability and conservation of the species in question.
Supporting the system means making it stable, transparent and controlled over time. The prompt use of the system not only helps to reduce damages but is also very useful for the protection of species.
What is CITES?
CITES (CITES, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is the United Nations Convention “on the international trade in endangered species”.
The decision to found CITES was taken in 1963 during the meeting of members of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). The text of the Convention was agreed upon during the meeting of representatives from 80 nations present in Washington on March 3, 1973. CITES entered into force on 1 July 1975.
To this day, 183 nations have ratified this international/governmental agreement.
About 35,000 species of animals and plants are protected by CITES. Among these species, there are also crocodiles, alligators, pythons and anacondas.
Thus it is clear that there is a direct connection between a crocodile leather bag and CITES.
“Okay, but what do I have to do with CITES? Why is it so important that I know about it? Why have I never heard of it before?” If you are posing at least one of these questions, what you will read shortly will surely help.
We must first explain why this convention is so important.
In fact, a correct understanding of this topic will determine the outcome of future events and you will be able to assess whether the production and purchase of a bag will harm or bring benefits to the species protected by the Cites.
Having said all this, we go back to the beginning.
Why has this article been written?
The CITES agreement requires all participants to strictly comply with all rules and standards. For this reason, it seems that the final consumer (that is likely you, as a buyer of an exotic leather product) would have no need to know more about it. Time and our experience as manufacturers and retailers of exotic leather items, however, have shown us that this is not how it works.
If we wish to create a transparent and legal system, it is necessary to inform each participant in the chain, particularly the buyer of the product.
This becomes even more essential because on the Internet many provocative and shocking articles appear which, from our point of view, not only are not helpful in preserving nature but in some way create distress, causing emotions of hatred and anger among readers.
Today, as never before, it is very important to face this problem consciously and with all the necessary information.
For this reason, we invite you to spend some time reading this article and suggest that you reflect on the topic of CITES.
Who participates in CITES and in what way?
Anyone who is somehow connected to an article protected by CITES (as in our case the crocodile leather handbags): from local residents, hunters and breeders, who are in constant contact with these animals in their habitat, to transporters and sellers of leather, from exotic leather products manufacturers to retailers and distributors of these items, up to the consumers of the finished product.
The convention states: “People and nations are and must be the best guardians of their wild fauna and flora.” This means that each country is responsible for determining the status and conditions of these species on the territory, controlling and monitoring them.
As the trade of wild animals and their derivatives cross the country’s borders, obedience to the rules of the convention and control of their activities require international collaboration.
All members of the Convention are obliged to comply with regulations in their foreign trade business. On the other hand, the adaptation of internal laws on the basis of CITES rules is considered to be the expression of goodwill by each country.
What is important to understand in our opinion?
The exotic animals used in the production of articles, such as the crocodile leather bag, are not found in Russia, France or Italy (from where we are writing this article and from where we produce our products).
Do you know how many countries an exotic skin passes through before being exposed in boutique displays in the form of a finished product? If this is an article made in Italy, these countries are at least three: the country of origin of the animal, Italy, and the country where the final product is sold.
The exotic animal skins pass customs at least four times: the first time in the country where the hides are exported, the second time in Italy when skins enter the country, the third time when the final product comes out of Italy to be transported to the country where it will be sold, the fourth time it enters the country of destination.
Cites assumes full control over the crossing of each border, including the submission of the necessary documents, the payment of taxes, compliance with the traceability rules of the species from the country of origin up to those of the buyer, and the collection of various payments.
All of this happens only in theory because the reality is different and the “line” of monitoring can be lost even long before.
Why does this happen? It happens due to non-compliance of the rules, the desire to avoid excess taxes. Sometimes it only happens because of ignorance. It is precisely this that we, with your help, can change.
How does the convention work?
- -The countries taking part in the convention define the state and level of withdrawal of animals and plants from nature, performing the control and monitoring to ensure sustainable use and prevent the threat of extinction.
- -The data obtained is transmitted to the CITES Secretariat.
- -The list of species to be regulated is created during the Conference and is divided into 3 categories corresponding to the 3 appendices of the Convention:
Appendix 1 contains the endangered species of animals/plants. Thus, in most cases, their trade is strictly forbidden.
Appendix 2 contains animal/plant species that are not currently threatened with extinction but must be constantly monitored and for which, at the time of trading, certain quotas must be respected.
Appendix 3 contains species of animals/plants that are regulated within the jurisdiction of individual countries.
In our particular example, crocodiles, alligators and pythons are usually found in appendix 2, so in most cases, they are not threatened with extinction, even though trade in these species is still regulated by quotas and strictly controlled.
We’ll explain the meaning of the appendices in a somewhat simplified way.
If in one country a species is included in the list of Appendix 1, its trade is blocked. The same species in other countries, or a similar species in this or other countries, can be found in appendix n.2. In the latter case, the supply of this species, strictly controlling the quotas and monitoring the conditions of the species in nature, covers the market demand, obtains economic profit and makes it possible to maintain breeding and development of the species in countries where it is in appendix n.1.
Why is all of this important?
Suppose for some reason CITES is gone or is no longer in force. What effect would it have? The demand for this type of animal/plant will remain the same, but there will no longer be laws, control bodies and special measures aimed at the protection of these species.
The prohibition on the trade of a species that plays a central role in the economy of a country leads to a much lower quality of life and a much lower level of economic development. It also gives life to poaching and illicit trade. As a result, more species are hunted their natural environment, risking extinction.
On the contrary, conservation of individual species can be achieved by introducing innovative programs, which provide money from trade that is used to fund protective measures such as anti-poaching initiatives and ensuring a better life for the local population.
“International trade in flora and fauna is a global industry that supports the lives of many people around the world. As the management is both ecologically sustainable and rational, trade can stimulate the species and preserve their habitat. Trade can also become a direct source of income from the collection and sale of animals and plants, or an indirect source of income through other sectors of related industries such as tourism, production, etc.
Governments increasingly seek to improve the management of natural resources and to increase the recognition of many of the services and benefits provided by man to these species and the ecosystem. Thanks to certain mechanisms, rationally using ecological resources, CITES can play a decisive role in eco-sustainable development. “
(Author’s note: the translation is free, the original English text was taken from the document: CITES TRADE: RECENT TRENDS IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN APPENDIX II-LISTED SPECIES (1996-2010)
Let’s go back to our simple example.
To better understand the consequences of irrational decisions, we take as an example the hunting of crocodiles in a swampy location in the USA.
As a result of protest actions by animal defenders, authorities have introduced an administrative ban on crocodile hunting.
This has rendered the preservation and maintenance of the marshlands uninteresting, unnecessary and expensive for landowners of the area. The marshes were then drained and used differently. What happened next? In this area, not only have the crocodiles disappeared, but the entire ecosystem has also been destroyed and, as a result, other species of animals and plants have disappeared.
“The exploitation of natural resources, if carried out on the basis of the principle of sustainability of living systems, can be considered as a tool for nature conservation. With this approach, social and economic benefits encourage people to preserve natural resources” (IUCN, 2000; IUCN SSC 2012).
(Author’s note – The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – is an international non-governmental organization that deals with issues of the preservation of biodiversity on the planet).
What does all this mean?
If the rules, regulations and laws of CITES are respected, the monitored legal trade not only does not harm nature, but it is also the best available strategy at the moment, aimed at the conservation of threatened species of extinction.
This means that the issue is directly linked to the final participant of the chain, that is, to the owner of a product made using a species protected by CITES and also to a future buyer. In our case, this product is a crocodile leather handbag.
The issue is also directly related, and no less so, to those who are opposed to the use of exotic skin for the production of articles.
How important is it to be informed about CITES?
Without a doubt, this topic is important for every person interested in the conservation of our planet and for active participation in this process.
To whom is all of this really necessary?
It is obligatory for participants in these processes: for buyers and consumers of products made using the protected species of CITES, and also for those who are opposed to such productions.
So, is there a reason to feel guilty for dreaming a crocodile leather handbag? Are animal species harmed or not?
Of course not, provided there is a conscious approach. And now that you know what CITES is and how this convention cares for nature, it’s easier for you to make an informed choice. What can you do? The simplest thing is to ask the seller of the product if CITES documents are available. I must point out that the seller is not obliged to have these documents with them and is not obliged to show them. However, believe me, if this question is asked more and more often, the seller will feel uncomfortable and sooner or later will do everything possible to be informed about this issue. There are many problems related to CITES. There is still a lot to do and this all depends on each of us, using a conscious approach to this topic. Examples of such problems are complications when tracing species (and derivatives) on the market, controlling the compliance of agreements, respectful treatment of animals at the farms created for wildlife preservation. There are problems and they must be resolved in a proper and conscious manner, realizing that we are all involved even if indirectly. I suggest you expand on this topic to make the necessary conclusions.
Our view as manufacturers and exporters in constant contact with exotic leather, and as responsible parties for the preparation of CITES documentation, is as follows: legal trade and strict compliance with the rules of the CITES Convention is not only the best, but also the only available strategy for the conservation of species threatened with extinction.
Recommended materials for the most complete understanding of the topic:
CITES TRADE: RECENT TRENDS IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN APPENDIX II-LISTED SPECIES (1996-2010) Sixteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties Bangkok (Thailand), 3-14 March 2013
THE CALL OF THE WILD: captive crocodilian production and the shaping of conservation incentives. TRAFFIC International July 2006.
Improving International Systems for Trade in Reptile Skins based on Sustainable Use. UNCTAD/DITC/TED/2011/7
THE TRADE IN SOUTH-EAST ASIAN PYTHON SKINS
Структура процесса CITES, позволяющего сделать вывод о ненанесении вреда природным популяциям в ситуации трофейной охоты, с аргали (Ovis ammon) в качестве основного объекта анализа. A TRAFFIC REPORT