By Philip Mansbridge (commentary)
When it comes to animals, Thailand is a country of great interest, and great concern. But my visit there last month was not to explore, but to attend the famous CITES convention - a triennial meeting that can decide the fates of the world’s endangered species.
At Care for the Wild, we work hard to help wildlife on the ground at home and abroad, funding a network of sanctuaries, vital research and even our own anti-poaching projects in Kenya. But sometimes, you have to take your eyes from the ground and take a look at the big picture.
And so to CITES. Backed by the UN, this is where massively important decisions can be taken - the fact that it is illegal to trade ivory internationally, for example, is because of CITES. In reality, CITES can be a confusing talking shop which is a bit like the West Wing crossed with Yes Minister!
However, some very good decisions were taken. Sharks have been protected for the first time, as have manta rays - creatures you might not think of as needing protection, but they certainly do.
Several species of turtle were also protected because they are being decimated by the pet trade - please think about that next time you visit the pet shop!
But we were incredibly disappointed that polar bears were not given the protection that we think they need.
Unfortunately this was an example of politics getting in the way of common sense, which often leads to animals being pushed right to the brink of extinction before anyone does anything about it.
A lot too was discussed in relation to the critical level of elephant and rhino poaching, but more needs to be done.
This was a lesson that while CITES is important, ultimately governments need to step in and help. It was worth me going to Thailand to add my voice to those saying please, act now before it’s too late.