Agriculture Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan traveled to Qatar to discuss with Willem Wijnstekers, the secretary feneral of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the possibility of signing up, Animals Lebanon’s co-founder and vice president Maggie Shaarawi told The Daily Star on Monday.
Delegates from almost 150 countries have gathered in Doha for the March 13-25 conference, being held in the Middle East for the first time, to debate and vote on 40 proposals curbing or banning trade in endangered animals and plants. Lebanon and Bahrain are the only Arab states not to have signed the 1975 agreement, to which 175 states are party.
But Lebanon could come in from the cold as soon as 2011, according to Animals Lebanon officials who were invited to sit in on Hajj Hassan’s talks with Wijnstekers Monday. “The minister made it clear to the secretary general of CITES that he has every intention of having Lebanon join CITES within one year,” the organization’s president, Lana al-Khalil, said in a press release from Doha.
While Lebanon is technically required to monitor any trade of animals between countries that have ratified the convention, the lack of training in animal policing and rife bribery means it is an easy base for animal smugglers to import and export endangered species. Elephants, big cats and chimpanzees are just some of the species known to have been smuggled in and out of Lebanon.
Last September, a lion cub was discovered abandoned in a cage in a Beirut alleyway. The severely dehydrated animal, which had been kept illegally, died shortly after being rescued. Endangered monkeys and other species are also commonly found in unregulated pet shops or private zoos.