The 17th meeting of the U.N.’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has been meeting in Johannesburg, with ivory, rhinos and parrots on the agenda.
CITES is a global treaty that regulates trade in wild flora and fauna or products derived from them with an aim to ensuring their survival. Over 180 countries are signatories.
Following are some of the key decisions taken in this round of wildlife diplomacy, which began Sept. 24 and ends on Wednesday.
– CITES placed the eight species of pangolin on the convention’s “Appendix I,” which prohibits any cross-border movement in the animals or their body parts for commercial purposes.
Pangolins are scaly animals with the dubious distinction of being the world’s most poached mammal.
Pangolin meat is prized as a delicacy in Asian economies such as Vietnam, while the animal’s scales are used in traditional medicines.
African Grey Parrot
– Prized for its ability to imitate human speech, this species also placed on “Appendix I”.
The African grey parrot is usually bred in captivity and sold as a pet.
High levels or deforestation and increased trafficking for the pet industry have led to the decline of the parrot, which was once widespread across central and western Africa.
– Global trade in the bones, claws and teeth of wild lions has also been imposed with exemptions for those harvested from captive-bred lions in South Africa.
The decision on lions was a compromise which fell short of the Appendix I listing that some African countries and conservationists were pushing for.
Conservationists fear the legal market from South African captive-raised lions could provide incentives for poachers to “launder” bones taken from wild lions.
Lion bone is highly sought after in Asia for use in traditional medicines and is used as a substitute for the bones of tigers, which are much rarer.
– CITES rejected proposals by Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell ivory to raise funds for conservation.
The proposal was staunchly opposed by east African countries such as Kenya, which has sent a message by burning its stockpiles of ivory in April.
A global ban on ivory sales was imposed in 1989 though CITES allowed one-off auctions from southern Africa in 1999 and 2008.
Those opposed to any loosening of the ban say “dirty ivory” can be laundered by poachers and crime syndicates with licit supplies and that it makes ivory socially acceptable.
A proposal to move southern African elephant populations to Appendix I to provide them with extra protection failed.
CITES also recommended that countries with legal domestic ivory markets – which are not regulated by the convention as its remit is cross-border trade – start closing them down because they are seen as contributing to poaching.
A bid by the southern African Kingdom of Swaziland to sell rhino horn to raise money for conservation was defeated. The global ban on the sale of rhino horn, prized in Asia for use in traditional medicine, has been in place since 1977.
Sharks and Rays
CITES members also voted to include the silky shark, three species of thresher sharks and nine species of devil rays in its “Appendix II” listing, which strictly controls trade so that species are not overharvested or threatened.
Devil rays, which resemble their bigger cousins, manta rays, are targeted for their gill plates, which are sold in China for use in a health tonic.
“Largely unregulated fishing is depleting devil ray populations and jeopardizes the significant potential of these animals for tourism,” the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society said.