CITES Secretary General Resigns – Call for the appointment of an African replacement

Secretary General Resigns – The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

Wildlife management experts who support the sustainable use of wildlife, call for the appointment of an African replacement

Pro-sustainable use wildlife experts worldwide, including a former Secretary General of CITES, Eugene Lapointe, (1982 – 1990), now President of the International Wildlife Management Consortium (IWMC) World Conservation Trust, have greeted the news of John Scanlon’s resignation with a call for the appointment of a well-qualified African replacement.

Since the Convention came into force 43 years ago, Europeans, a Canadian and an Australian (all caucasians) have monopolized the leadership position at CITES despite the fact that most of its work has focused on the conservation of so-called ‘endangered’ wild fauna and flora in Africa and Asia. These discrepancies have provoked considerable conflict within and outside CITES over the past several years.

Lapointe says: “It is imperative that we correct this historic imbalance. The time has come to give another part of the world a crack at leading CITES. And it cannot be doubted that there are some very qualified candidates in Africa who are more than fit to be appointed as its Secretary General.”

The Australian born Scanlon has announced that he will be resigning as of April 6, 2018.

Announcing his decision in a CITES press statement released on 7 February 2018, Scanlon said: “After serving for eight years as Secretary-General of the CITES Secretariat (and three years with the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi prior to that), I will soon be completing my mandate with the Convention and taking up my next career challenge.”

His statement continued, “We have made extraordinary strides in the fight against illegal wildlife trade… through the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime, and we are seeing tangible results from our collective efforts. Amongst many other successes one can name, bringing more marine and timber species under CITES, new initiatives with the technology, tourism and transport sectors, reaching out to rural communities and the youth, and 3 March being declared as UN World Wildlife Day.”

How will the next Secretary-General of CITES be appointed?

Scanlon said that since mid-January 2018, he had been working very closely with the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), his Chief of Staff, and the Chair of the CITES Standing Committee towards ensuring a “smooth transition to my successor.”

That statement spells doom and disaster, proclaims the pro-use lobby that wants to see change at CITES, not “more of the same”.

Scanlon continues: “We are working together to ensure the recruitment process is conducted expeditiously and in a way that respects UN personnel rules and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the CITES Standing Committee and the Executive Director, which was agreed to and signed in 2011.”

Scanlon leaves CITES at a time when the organisation is fast losing credibility. Pro-sustainable-use advocates, worldwide, increasingly see CITES as having been ‘captured’ by the animal rights groups. These groups continue to buy votes and sponsor delegations (at the cost of their votes) with the purpose of controlling the consensus voting system at the Convention. Their doctrine demands the banning of regulated trade in fauna and flora and their products, even where there is scientifically justified evidence to support such trade.

This has earned the CITES Secretariat, and its animal rights sponsors, the unfortunate image of exercising authority without responsibility.

CITES and its accredited animal rights groups, are busy shutting down ivory and rhino horn markets in China, Japan and the USA, using the ‘ban-trade-in-wildlife-products’ mantra in their bid to stop the poaching of elephants and rhinos in Africa. These developments have continued to anger wildlife management experts in Southern Africa and Asia who are now exploring possibilities to extract themselves from CITES and to cooperate in the construction of their own wildlife trading partnerships.

Nowhere in the annals of human history have prohibitions ever achieved their objectives. So, banning the trade in ivory and rhino horn will never stop the poaching of elephants and rhinos. Godfrey Harris, Managing Director of the Ivory Education Institute (IEI) said, “Ending trade without dealing with demand only succeeds in raising the price of the banned commodity. Increased prices encourages more poaching.” The ivory ban favoured by the animal rights groups, and its CITES supporters, puts elephants in even greater danger. “It is not saving them from a premature death”.

How can CITES trade bans stop the Chinese, Europeans, Japanese, and others from their tradition of consuming and using ivory and rhino horn products? Would anybody listen if the consumption of hamburgers in America was banned? The future will confound those who are peddling the propaganda that ivory and rhino horn trade bans will stop the poaching. The animal rightists always talk about animals and never about socioeconomic costs to Africa’s elephant and rhino range states; or to the rural communities that live side by side with these iconic species.

Harris of the Los Angeles-based IEI said that an African CITES Secretary General “is (more) likely to balance the needs of people with the needs of the animals.”

Meanwhile, the CEO of South Africa-based True Green Alliance, Ron Thomson said: “I would welcome the appointment of a qualified African as the next CITES Secretary General, provided he does not come from Kenya or Botswana – both of which countries have pro-animal rightist administrations.”

The United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director will conduct the CITES Secretary General recruitment process in accordance with UN personnel rules. This includes advertising the position and establishing an assessment panel to interview short-listed candidates and then to recommend suitably qualified candidates to the UN Secretary-General.



  1. Helena Gustafsson


  2. Andrikos.Alexandrou

    I would recommend that Ron Thompson become the next General at CiTIES , nobody knows more on elephant conservation than Ron, if it means we must contribute towards his salary i will gladly support

    • Dear Andrikos,
      Thank you for your confidence in me. But “NO THANKS” – this is NOT “for me”.
      Kind regards
      Ron Thomson CEO TGA

  3. Meanwhile, the CEO of South Africa-based True Green Alliance, Ron Thomson said: “I would welcome the appointment of a qualified African as the next CITES Secretary General, provided he does not come from Kenya or Botswana – both of which countries have pro-animal rightist administrations.”

    Mr Thomson, you know probably of someone fit to do the job!!!

    Nominate a person.

    What about yourself – you are from Africa?
    Also have good knowledge of most African countries and their game world.

    • Dear Koos,
      NO thank you. I am too long in the tooth and already have a heavy job of work to do for the TGA.
      We need a good pro-sustainable-use BLACK African for this post. But, I fear that UNEP has long ago picked their man, and that (unfortunately) John Scanlon has had a finger in the pie. I doubt that we are going ton see much change.
      Kind regards
      Ron Thomson CEO TGA

  4. Pretty amazing seeing the suggestion that skin color will be the primary consideration for selecting the next Secretary General. I believe with much of the focus of CITES being around animals native to Africa, quite possibly looking for highly qualified candidates on this continent is not a bad idea but my choice would be someone with experience and success in conservation over a person’s skin color. Having said that, I found Scanlon to be unqualified and a citizen from a country that participated in CITES only by having membership. His native country doesn’t practice trade in wildlife nor has it ever accepted sustainable use in management of wildlife. This was all evident in his performance as Secretary General. So, the search begins … for a black person. Whites and Asians need not apply.

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