CITES Meeting Boosts Wildlife Protection Measures
The two-week 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CoP17 CITES) closed after making significant progress on global efforts to stamp out illegal wildlife trade and ensure sustainability of future trade in a range of valuable species. The meeting covered issues relating to captive breeding, synthetic products, demand reduction, traceability, cybercrime and corruption.
The topic of traceability was examined, as Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Fisheries Programme Manager said: “Traceability holds the key to strengthening the backbone of sustainable and legal trade in a variety of products such as sharks and reptile skins —it’s all about feeling confident that when you read the fine print it tells you the products are legal and sustainable.”
Four species of sharks – the Silky and three thresher sharks – and nine species of Mobula rays were all included within CITES Appendix II: their inclusion followed reports of favorable implementation of the listings for a number of shark and ray species at the previous CITES CoP meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.
Progress was also made with conservation measures for flagship endangered species anned from trade under CITES—elephants and rhinos in particular.
For elephants, there was a backing for the streamlining the effective implementation of the CITES-led National Ivory Action Plan process, whereby governments have been requested to develop plans to address the illegal flow of ivory along the trade chain. There was also a decision taken calling for governments to phase out domestic ivory markets.
On rhinos, the pressure was maintained on two of the countries most heavily implicated in the illegal rhino horn trade: Mozambique as a transit and exit point for horn leaving Africa and Vietnam as the principal end-use destination. A proposal from Swaziland to legalize rhino horn trade was defeated in light of widely held concerns about the intensity of current illegal markets, although the proponent raised important questions regarding the very real challenge of financing conservation action to protect their rhinos and other wildlife.
The NGO TRAFFIC released Skin and Bones Re-examined a report which noted that at least 30 percent of the Tiger seizures from 2012-2015 came from captive breeding facilities. Governments later took a decision taken to scrutinize trade from such operations, and Laos announced it would be phasing out its tiger farms.
Pangolins were the subject of perhaps the most widely reported Appendix change listings: all eight species were included within Appendix I of the Convention, which will prohibit their commercial international trade. The move came following evidence of rising illegal trade and reports of population declines across Asia causing increased illegal trade in African species.
One of the most significant, though largely unreported outcomes was for regulation of the commercial international trade in a variety of timber species, a number of which were listed in Appendix II including all those within the genus Dalbergia, several of which are commercially traded as “rosewood.”
On captive breeding, governments endorsed a new resolution to address issues relating to the laundering of wild-caught species into legal trade.
Parties also agreed on the need to determine how best to regulate bioengineered products derived from CITES listed species to ensure that they have no detrimental impact on wild populations.
Demand reduction featured heavily: a new resolution called for well-targeted, evidence-based methods to bring about consumer behavior change. “Enforcement efforts to stem poaching and trafficking may be futile without complementary efforts to reduce demand for illegal products,” said Gayle Burgess, environmental TRAFFIC’s Consumer Behaviour Change Co-ordinator.