Author Archives: laurelneme

Failed CITES Proposal Highlights Need for New Approach

This week at the CITES Conference of Parties, several proposals, including those to list Atlantic bluefin tuna & polar bears in Appendix I and red & pink coral in Appendix II, were rejected.  Opponents of the proposals intimated the reason behind their lack of support was their concern that increased regulations would negatively impact poor communities.  Whether or not that was the true motivation behind their votes, these statements emphasize the need to find ways to sustain species while also sustaining the communities that depend on them.

A relatively new eco-label, called Wildlife Friendly, does just that.  It certifies “wildlife-friendly” products that conserve threatened wildlife while at the same time contributing to the economic vitality of rural communities.  Take the example of certified “Elephant Pepper.” To stop elephants from raiding their crops, farmers in Kenya plant pepper plants as natural fences around their fields. In addition to keeping elephants out (did you know elephants dislike and thus avoid pepper?), the plants provide a new cash crop for farmers that is then certified and sold for use in salsa and other products.

Another example is Ibis Rice.  Sustainable rice growing in the habitat of the endangered Great Ibis in Cambodia both earns local farmers substantial income while avoiding conversion of the land habitat and ensuring it’s maintained in its natural state.   Perhaps zoos and other wildlife-oriented institutions can help promote these types of products as well as foster public awareness about them and create markets by exploring options to use certified products in their own restaurants?

You can hear more examples of win-win-win situations that support a “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profits, as well as what goes into wildlife friendly certification, on this week’s The WildLife broadcast & podcast with Julie Stein of the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) which will air on Monday, March 22, 2010 from 1-2 pm on WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont.  (Live stream on  Podcast available on iTunes and

More information:   The WildLife Radio & Podcast: Certified Wildlife Friendly: Predator Friendly:

Dr. Laurel Neme (

Laurel will be a featured lecturer at the St. Louis Zoo this Spring. Check page for dates.

Salamander can Shine Spotlight on Wildlife Trade and the Internet

Salamander can Shine Spotlight on Wildlife Trade and the Internet (Inaugural Zoo Peeps Post)

By Laurel A. Neme, PhD

As delegates to the CITES Conference of Parties meeting in Doha, Qatar this month consider whether or not to list the Kaiser’s spotted newt (Neurergus kaiseri) under Appendix I, they will also highlight the role of e-commerce in promoting trade of rare wildlife species and the desperate need to examine how to police the Internet more effectively.

The Kaiser’s spotted newt is a rare salamander endemic to four streams in the southern part of Iran’s Zagros Mountains.  Thought to number less than 1,000 mature individuals in the wild, the species is highly sought after as pets by collectors, particularly in Europe and Japan.  In Iran, this newt is considered an endangered species and collecting them requires a permit.  In the international arena, however, it is not yet protected.

Populations of Kaiser’s spotted newt have plummeted quickly and dramatically, by 80 percent over recent years, largely due to the apparent ability of sellers to tap a global market through e-commerce.  A 2006 report by TRAFFIC notes ten websites selling the animal, and a CITES document (CoP15 Prop. 14) relates how one Ukranian company, reputedly at the center of international distribution, reported selling 200 wild-caught newts in 2005, and boasted that it would have another 250 of the animals available in January 2006.

While online marketing is a common method to connect sellers of rare animals and animal products with buyers, authorities struggle with how to police it.  The 2008 prohibition by EBay, the well-known auction site, that prevents listing elephant ivory as an item available for sale is one method that helps reduce the trade.  But what of items not listed on the auction site?  When sellers are dispersed, policing them becomes a far more challenging issue. As CITES delegates consider whether or not to list the Kaiser’s spotted newt under Appendix I, by necessity they will also need to explore how to target online sales of illegal wildlife and wildlife products.  Hence, discussion on the fate of this small creature, which is poised to become the first species protected because of e-commerce, can shine a welcome spotlight on a sticky issue.

Related information:


Species Survival Network

An interview with Alejandra Goyenechea, Defenders of Wildlife, on the amphibian trade and CITES can be found at The WildLife radio show and podcast.