CITES Dateline – Bangkok, Sunday, March 3, 2013

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After an introduction by video from Prince William of the UK, the Prime Minister of Thailand opened the meeting and told the 2,000 delegates from 150 countries that there is a crisis in elephant and rhino poaching, driven by criminal syndicates and requiring significant financial resources to fight it. The elephant is a major cultural and historical symbol for Thailand, and they have an interest in protecting it. Thailand has been using elephants for warfare and for labor for centuries.

Major Battle Over The Use of The Secret Ballot

Most of the afternoon was consumed by fierce debate over what seemed like meaningless parliamentary issues about the Rules of Procedure for the meeting, but this disguised a very serious issue.  For years it has been easy for countries to ask for secret ballots when voting on contentious issues in CITES, requiring only 10 countries to support a motion for a secret ballot.

Today, this practice was challenged by the European Union, supported by the U.S. and many Latin American countries.  They want to require either a majority or a super-majority (2/3) in order to force an issue to a secret ballot.

Many developing countries fought back, arguing fiercely that they need the secret ballot to avoid strong-arm pressure by “outside influences” The other side argues just as fiercely that international organizations have to operate “transparently” and secret ballots should rarely be used.

The issue was not settled today, and this could seriously affect the progress of the meeting as votes near on proposals like the polar bear.


European Union is still working on their “compromise proposal for polar bear.


Several issues of major importance to hunters and conservationists are the top priorities of the delegations. The guidelines for the required, scientifically-based findings for all export permits, and the details of a plan to deal with the seizures of leopard trophies by the U.S. authorities for technical problems with permits are all on the radar for SCI and SCI Foundation.

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