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International Governance

IUCN / World Conservation Union

The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) / World Conservation Union is the only worldwide conservation organization. Established in 1948 and based in Gland, Switzerland, it links together government agencies, non-government agencies, and independent states to encourage a worldwide approach to conservation. In 1993, its membership included 655 organizations, representing 103 countries. The IUCN/World Conservation Union endorses captive breeding in addition to habitat protection to maintain viable populations in the wild. Its mission is "to provide leadership and promote a common approach for the world conservation movement in order to safeguard the integrity and diversity of the natural world, and to ensure that human use of natural resources is appropriate, sustainable, and equitable."

The term “threatened” is used to describe animals protected by the IUCN/World Conservation Union. The IUCN/World Conservation Union divides threatened animals into five categories:

  • According to the IUCN/World Conservation Union, endangered species are species "in danger of extinction and whose survival is unlikely if the causal factors continue operating." The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and the Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kemplii) are examples of IUCN/World Conservation Union listed endangered species.
  • Vulnerable species are "likely to move into the endangered category in the near future if the causal factors continue operating." Vulnerable species include the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and the Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis).
  • Rare species have "small world populations that aren't at present danger or vulnerable, but at risk." The hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas) is listed as rare.
  • The indeterminate category lists species that belong in one of the above three categories but for which there isn't enough information to determine which category is appropriate. The whale shark (Rhinocodon typus) falls into this category.
  • Insufficiently known species are those that are suspected to belong to one of the first three categories, but lack of information prohibits final listing. Humbolt penguins (Spheniscus humbolti) are listed in this category

Two bulletins published by the IUCN/World Conservation Union list threatened animal species: the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals and the IUCN Red Data Books. The Red List includes threatened animals and their current IUCN/World Conservation Union status. The Red Data Books give detailed information on the animals on the Red List. As of 1993, more than 5,000 threatened animals were identified by the IUCN/World Conservation Union, with 698 mammals, 1,047 birds, 191 reptiles, 63 amphibians, 762 fishes, and 2,250 invertebrates represented.

To achieve its mission, the IUCN/World Conservation Union has formed five commissions: Species Survival Commission, Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas, Commission on Environmental Law, Commission on Environmental Strategies and Planning, and Commission on Communication and Education.

  • Species Survival Commission (SSC)


    The Species Survival Commission (SSC), in particular, influences the conservation programs of zoological parks and aquariums. The SSC advises the IUCN/World Conservation Union and its members on the technical aspects of species conservation, striving to maintain biological diversity worldwide. The SSC coordinates, develops, and executes programs through Specialist Groups. Specialist Groups target specific animals or plants (i.e., parrots, cetaceans, primates), and are comprised of experts in that particular field. Most of the 5,000 experts within the SSC network belong to at least one of the 98 Specialist Groups.

  • Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas

    The Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas is responsible for organizing the Parks Congress, an international meeting between Park officials held every ten years. This commission also promotes the World Heritage Convention which encourages governments to fund and protect natural and cultural sites.

  • Commission on Environmental Law


    The Commission on Environmental Law contributes legal expertise to governments throughout the world. This Commission also provides environmental legal help to developing countries. This legal assistance often creates a country's first environmental legislation.

  • Commission on Environmental Strategies and Planning


    The Commission on Environmental Strategies and Planning uses the information collected from other Commissions and organizations to develop frameworks that provide direct support to regional IUCN/World Conservation Union programs. This commission works with all sections of the IUCN/World Conservation Union at an operational level to ensure that their contributions are used in all aspects of the IUCN/World conservation Union's work.

  • Commission on Communication and Education


    The Commission on Education and Communication is responsible for working with government agencies to develop strategic approaches to environmental education. This commission develops publications, teaching strategies, and training programs to help countries instill an environmental ethic in students and public administrators.


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

As part of the early endangered species laws, Congress directed in the U.S. government to convene an international convention to conserve endangered species. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty, convened in 1973 in Washington, D.C. and became effective on July 1, 1975. The U.S. and 112 other nations are parties to the agreement and are required to meet and discuss wildlife trade issues at least once every two years. CITES recognizes that unrestricted commercial exploitation is a major threat to species' survival. CITES establishes worldwide controls over trade in certain species of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants.

To establish guidelines for trade, species are listed in one of three CITES Appendices.

  • Appendix I includes species identified as currently endangered, or in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Permits are issued for activities with these species only under exceptional circumstances. All activity requires a permit from the importing country and a permit from the exporting country. Among species listed are the gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), and Hawaiian monk sea (Monachus schauinslandi).
  • Appendix II includes species identified as threatened, or likely to become endangered is trade isn't regulated. International trade is permitted with proper documentation issued by the government of the exporting country. This includes the Amazon River dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) and American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis).
  • Appendix III species are listed to give additional protection to those species not currently considered endangered or threatened. International shipments of species listed in Appendix III require an export permit from the country that listed the species or certificate of origin from the exporting country. No CITES import permit is necessary.


International Whaling Commission (IWC)

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was formed in 1946 to help manage whaling activities worldwide. The Commission is governed by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. In its early years, IWC representatives were from whaling nations only. Today, the Commission has members from both whaling and non whaling nations and is viewed as a conservation commission, not a whaling commission.

The Convention Articles authorize the IWC to initiate studies on whale populations and whaling activities and to set whaling quotas, seasons, size limits, areas, and methods of capture. The IWC, in conjunction with the IWC Scientific Committee, called for a complete moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982. One condition of the moratorium was for the IWC to complete a thorough study of the subsequent effects on whale stocks and to consider alternative management plans. In addition, special permits could be issued for scientific research and aboriginal (subsistence) whaling. As of January 1994 the moratorium hadn't been lifted.


International Union of Directors of Zoological Gardens (IUDZG)


The International Union of Directors of Zoological Gardens (IUDZG) promotes communication between zoological institutions throughout the world. It includes full-time chief executives of nonprofit zoos and aquariums that exist primarily for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes or are involved in nonprofit zoological research. The IDUZG is an international member of the IUCN/World Conservation Union and is responsible for managing international studbooks. Studbooks are comprehensive sources of data containing past and present information on all births, deaths, and international transfers of particular species.


Computer-Based Information Systems


International Species Inventory System (ISIS)

The coordination of worldwide captive breeding programs would be nearly impossible without a centralized computer-based information system. The Minnesota Zoological Garden coordinates the International Species Inventory System (ISIS). ISIS provides global specimen and species catalogues and auxiliary information services, and supports long-term collective species conservation and preservation programs.

ISIS gathers, processes, and distributes biological information on captive animal species. The information includes each individual animal's current location, age, sex, parentage, place of birth, and circumstance of death. ISIS plays an important role in providing data for long-range management and research plans both globally and regionally. With the help of ISIS, many endangered animals are being bred successfully in captivity. Several species that were once exterminated in the wild have been successfully reintroduced into their original habitats.

Species inventory reports are compiled and distributed annually to participating organizations. The reports are compiled and distributed annually to participating organizations. The reports detail where individual animals of a species are located along with pertinent biological information.

More than 163,000 living animals form the ISIS database. If zoo representatives wish to find an animal for their breeding program, they usually contact the species coordinator in their region. The species coordinator is responsible for compiling and providing information about the animals registered in the database. the species coordinator could then use ISIS to help determine the perfect genetic match.


Animal Records Keeping System (ARKS)

Animal Records Keeping System (ARKS) is a software package for keeping accurate animal inventory records at individual facilities and institutions. ARKS provides a framework for keeping data that is compatible with the ISIS central database. The program also generates inventory reports on individual animals, species, and entire zoological collections.


Medical Animal Records Keeping System (MedARKS)

The Medical Animal Records Keeping System (MedArks) encourages veterinary record keeping through standardized computer generated forms. MedARKS software allows individual facilities to record clinical pathologies of animals, parasitology treatments and examinations, vaccinations, and anesthesia procedures. These records can be compiled into individual medical history reports and inventory reports. Software users also have access to some broad-based, normal medical values for comparisons with animals in their own collection.


Single Population Analysis and Records Keeping System (SPARKS)

A Single Population Analysis and Records Keeping System (SPARKS) provides individual facilities with datasets for any of the 4,200 species registered with ISIS. The datasets are used to initiate and maintain formal studbooks and to perform demographic and genetic analyses.