By: Barbara Junge
Proposed changes to international protections for dozens of wildlife species will be discussed at CITES World Wildlife Conference, Sept. 24 to Oct. 5, 2016, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Species at issue include the African elephant, rhinos, sharks, African grey parrot, American crocodile, and many other animals as well as plants.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that the billions of dollars in annual trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. By regulating the international trade of more than 35,000 species of plants and animals (and products derived therefrom), CITES is one of the world’s most powerful tools for conservation – it is enforceable by all member nations, with fines that can run in the millions. Examples of products governed by CITES include foods, exotic leather goods, medicines, fur coats, and tourist curio items.
CITES was drafted and approved at a meeting of 80 countries in Washington, D.C. on March 3, 1973. The United States was the first nation to become a party to CITES when it became effective on July 1, 1975; South Africa joined just a few months later. With the addition of Tajikistan on March 30, 2016, a total of 181 nations are parties to CITES. CITES is coordinated by a Secretariat (provided by the United Nations Environment Programme) which is responsible for studying reports of the parties, undertaking additional scientific and technical studies, and making recommendations to the parties.
The CITES system is designed to ensure that international trade in listed species is sustainable, legal, and traceable. Three appendices to CITES list species threatened with extinction and in which trade is permitted only in exceptional circumstances (Appendix I), species in which trade must be controlled in order to ensure their survival (Appendix II), and species that are protected in at least one country which has asked for international assistance in controlling trade (Appendix III).
Every two to three years the nations who are parties to CITES meet at a “Conference of the Parties.” The 2017 Conference of the Parties (CoP17) will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from Sept. 24 to Oct. 5, 2016. At CoP17 the parties to CITES will review progress on conservation of species, and consider amendments to the CITES lists of species to be protected. In addition to delegates representing the parties to CITES, observers from non-party nations and other United Nations agencies will attend CoP17. The parties also have permitted certain non-governmental organizations involved in conservation or trade to participate in the debates and formal sessions, but without a vote. Visitors are welcome to attend CoP17, but are not permitted to speak at formal sessions.
For those interested in animal law, the debates that will be held at CoP17 provide a rare opportunity to review the best scientific advice available worldwide about the species at issue and to evaluate the arguments offered by proponents seeking to change the listing of a species. For example, the United States joined Angola, Chad, the European Union, Gabon, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo, in proposing that the African grey parrot be moved from Appendix II to Appendix I (to increase its protected status), and the CITES Secretariat has recommended that the proposal be rejected. Colombia’s proposal that the American crocodile residing in a region of Colombia be moved from Appendix I to Appendix II (decreasing its protected status), received the Secretariat’s recommendation that it be adopted
Follow the CoP17 proceedings on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and LinkedIn, at the links below.
More information about the CoP17 meeting in Johannesburg, including the agenda: https://cites.org/cop17
Proposals for amendment of Appendices I and II of CITES as approved by the CITES Secretariat: https://cites.org/sites/default/files/eng/cop/17/En-CoP17_List_of_proposals_23082016.pdf
CITES Animals Committee Report to be discussed at CoP17: https://cites.org/sites/default/files/eng/cop/17/WorkingDocs/E-CoP17-10-02-01.pdf
Track the progress of individual nations in adopting laws that are deemed adequate for implementation of CITES: https://cites.org/legislation
To search for the status of a species, visit the CITES Checklist of CITES Species: http://checklist.cites.org/#/en
The United Nations Environment Program: http://www.unep.org/
The CITES website offers several tools, in multiple languages, to promote a greater understanding of international trade in wildlife. For example, the CITES Trade database can be searched by species or by purpose of trade (e.g., for breeding, medical, circus, hunting trophy, commercial) or by the name of the importing or exporting nation. http://trade.cites.org/
To learn more or to follow the CoP17 proceedings, visit:
Below is a statement from one of the many scientific organizations and advocacy organizations that will be attending CITES. Search for other statements by following any of the above media sources or viewing the list of participants at https://cites.org/cop17 and visiting their websites.
From Shark Research Institute, www.sharks.org, September 20, 2016:
The biggest issues at CITES CoP17 will be African elephants, rhinos and sharks.
Proposition 7 seeks to allow sales of existing stocks of rhino horn to retailers in the Far East, to be followed by annual legal sales of horns harvested from captive rhinos. On paper it sounds good, but the 2008 sales of elephant ivory in 2008 lacked adequate controls on crime/corruption and elephant poaching soared out of control.
Proposition 16 seeks to put ALL African elephants on Appendix I.
Although it is hard to tell right now, it looks like thresher sharks and devil rays have a good chance of receiving protection with an Appendix II listing, but the listing for silky sharks is meeting resistance. The United Nations Food & Agriculture expert study is opposing the listing, so our arguments are being slightly revised, putting emphasis on the greater value of silky sharks to the tourism industry.
China is the largest market for African elephant ivory and China’s authorities haven’t earned a reputation for enforcing laws concerning endangered species. In 2014, WildLifeRisk targeted a factory in Zhejiang Province that was slaughtering 600 whale sharks annually. The factory manager even admitted on-camera the plant was also processing basking sharks and white sharks, all of which are ‘protected’ by the Chinese government, making it illegal to hunt them without government permits. The three species had been listed on CITES Appendix II for more than a decade, and much of the factory’s products were being exported. At the previous CITES (CoP16 in Bangkok) the head of China’s delegation stated: “China doesn’t have the ‘capability’ to determine if shark fins are from Appendix II sharks.”
What also concern us is Bagamoyo, the Chinese-funded autonomous port currently under construction in Tanzania which will have its own economic zone and satellite city. China is building, or already has, autonomous ports in the East China Sea, South China Sea and the Indian Ocean (Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar and Australia). When completed, it is expected that Bagamoyo will be the largest port in Africa. We fear that there will be a flood of illegal ivory, rhino horn and shark fins shipped through the port. Consider what implications the autonomous ports mean for endangered species of countries that have and are ceding portions to China. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_of_Pearls_(Indian_Ocean
There appears to be a concerted effort by China to carve out large slabs of the world which it either claims as sovereign, or can access for fishing and trade with increased ease through the growing network of autonomous ports. When China and other countries refuse to even acknowledge the principle of protection for wildlife (another example of course being Japan’s refusal to acknowledge the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary), then the sense of urgency to save what is left is increased.
Statement issued September 20, 2016, by Shark Research Institute, www.sharks.org.