Sometimes we can feel a little overwhelmed by the problems facing wildlife and the environment. It is clear from the daily news that the way we are trending isn’t great and it is all too easy to get caught up in our day-to-day lives, in the hope that someone else will solve these challenges.
I became involved in helping endangered animals after reading an article about the widespread poaching of rhinos that was occurring in Africa. While still working full time I decided I needed to do something, basically I needed to get Active for Animals. So I created an organization of the same name!
Most of my working life, has been involved in monitoring data, sales data, trade data etc. That is still my day job and I know firsthand the tools that have been developed to collect data over recent decades are excellent. Not a year has gone by where I haven’t needed to learn how to use a new and improved software application. Which is why I was shocked to hear that the CITES trade permit system, used to monitor the international trade in 40,000 of the rarest and most commercially valuable species on the planet still relies on a paper-permit system created when it was launched in the 1970s. Just how can this be the case for the trade in wild species, which is known to be one of the most valuable trades in the world? Modernizing CITES is one of the projects that I volunteer my time towards and why I launched the Transparency Matters Project earlier this year. In the words of Kofi Annan, “If corruption is a disease, transparency is a central part of its treatment.”.
Knowing all the problems, it came as a relief to hear John Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General from 2010 to 2018 a acknowledge this problem in a June 2023 interview with Boston’s News Station WBUR, saying, “We have a paper permitting system which is a 50-year-old permitting system that’s open to fraudulent use and corruption, whereas in 2023 we should have a fully automated system”.
Yet, with all this and even though moving to an electronic permit system was first discussed by CITES in 2002, as of today only 19 of CITES 184 signatory parties have modernized their trade permit system, and most only in the last couple of years. A cost effective, off-the-shelf system was developed several years ago and is finally getting the publicity it needs, with a dedicated website launched just a few weeks ago and earlier this week CITES launched a great promotional video about the eCITES system.