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CITES in Chile – A step in the right direction?

And it was just like that, between the Andes mountain range and the infinite expanse of the Pacific Ocean, that a narrow strip of land arose and it contained all the elements that had been used to create the rest of the world.

– Tibor Mende

Chile is a country with great variety in both landscape and climate making it home to a great diversity of plant and wildlife.  Chile is especially interesting as 40% of it’s species are endemic and is considered a “biodiversity hot spot”.  For this reason conservation specialists have worked to protect Chilean wildlife from exploitation and illegal trade.

On Valentines day 1975 Chile became a member of CITES (the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species), an international agreement aiming to ensure that international trade of animals and plants does not threaten their survival.  CITES summarizes a range of endangered species into different appendixes, and depending on which appendix the species falls into, the country must trade (or not trade) this species accordingly.  CITES now encompasses 35,000 different species of plants and animals which it strives to conserve and use sustainably.  Countries joining CITES must adhere to the amendments in place but cannot interfere with national laws. See the following video for a greater understanding of CITES objective:

 

While CITES and other conservation organizations have awesome intentions, the reality is that the trade of wildlife makes up a multibillion dollar industry world wide and that for many developing countries, which are often greatly biodiverse, the kind of economic growth this wildlife represents is substantial.  Chile has undoubtedly experienced substantial economic growth in recent years and is considered one of South America’s most prosperous and stable nations, however, this growth is largely a result of environmentally harmful industries such as forestry, agriculture and mining (1/3 of the worlds copper comes out of Chile). This polarization of environment and economy is not a new phenomena.  In fact it is the reoccurring theme in almost every post-industrialized nation.  As Chile continues its development, this conflict must continue to move further into the spotlight to engage organizations such as CITES to help guide such fragile and growing nation. Chile can learn from the mistakes of post-industrialized nations and engage in the efforts to conserve and act sustainably as represented by CITES.  However, I end with an open question – a similar question to the one I asked in the presentation – is CITES or other organizations like it going to be enough? Or will the forces of economic success prevail?

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