18 Nov 2022

The UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) has launched a new report into trade in endangered plants and animals. It unveiled the document at a conference in Panama organised by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in mid-November.

Prada Re-Edition 2005 python leather bag

Covering the last decade, the report considers the scale and trends in the global trade of nearly 40,000 species regulated by CITES and presents some positive stories linked to exotic leather.

It says, for example, that the production of leather from the skins of Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) has had positive impacts on population levels of the species itself and on other species and the general habitat in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Nile crocodile numbers in the lower Zambezi valley in Zimbabwe were declining in the early 2000s and went from 3,559 at the start of this century to 2,214 in 2004.

The report says this was because of habitat destruction affecting crocodile breeding areas and killing as a result of human-crocodile conflict.

Similarly in Tana County, Kenya, crocodiles were perceived as a dangerous predator and regularly killed through poisoning or other means. A lack of livelihoods options in the region was also driving significant hunting and poaching of other species.

In both areas, crocodile ranching programmes were established to generate incentives for crocodile conservation, a decrease in poaching, the conservation of rivers and wetland ecosystems, and livelihood benefits for local communities.

Another example the report highlights concerns python farming in Vietnam. More than 1,000 households now farm pythons there, providing greater earning potential than other farming options and generating high levels of demand among leathergoods brands that use exotic leather.

The report says the python skins from these farms are more highly prized than skins sourced in the wild because they offer better consistency and higher quality.

Coinciding with the launch of the document, UNEP executive director, Inger Andersen, commented that it was important to understand the benefits that sustainable and legal trade of products like these can bring. She also said it was important to compare those benefits the negative impacts of unsustainable and illegal trade.

Ms Andersen said a clearer understanding of the facts regarding trade would help national authorities manage international wildlife trade better.

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