BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents -

Im­pact of CITES’ de­ci­sions on en­dan­gered species


Odds on a re­sump­tion of the le­gal ivory trade have re­ceded. The is­sue of how to re­verse the mas­sive es­ca­la­tion in the poach­ing of ele­phants for their tusks dom­i­nated the con­fer­ence.

Two coun­tries – Namibia and Zim­babwe – re­quested the right to legally trade in ivory stock­piles but this was de­feated, while Botswana said it will vol­un­tar­ily treat its ele­phants as hav­ing a greater level of protection than they ac­tu­ally do.

Ac­cord­ing to Will Travers of the Born Free Foun­da­tion, this was im­por­tant. “Botswana has one third of Africa’s ele­phants, and this was de­liv­ered at min­is­te­rial level with all the clout that this gives,” he said.

The Zoo­log­i­cal So­ci­ety of London (ZSL) said a res­o­lu­tion call­ing on coun­tries to shut down their do­mes­tic ivory mar­kets was also highly sig­nif­i­cant. Prof Jonathan Bail­lie de­scribed it as “an im­por­tant mo­ment in turn­ing the sit­u­a­tion around for Africa’s ele­phants”.

CITES de el­e­gates also de­cided to aban­don all dis­cus­sions of whether – in the fu­ture – the in­terna ational ivory trade willw ever be re-opened d.

The dis­cus ssions at this year’s CITESC were very diffe fer­ent from ones be­ing held back in the late 1980s, said Travers, when the con­cept of sus­tain­able use of ivory was widely ac­cepted.

“This could start a longterm dis­cus­sion that will move us from be­ing ex­ploiters to guardians of wildlife,” he said.


So-called scaly anteaters are tar­geted for scales and meat. Pan­golins have re­ceived the high­est protection pos­si­ble un­der CITES, with trade in all eight species now banned.

Con­ser­va­tion­ists de­scribe pan­golins as the most traf­ficked mam­mals in the world – it’s been es­ti­mated that at least 1 mil­lion in­di­vid­u­als have been traded for their meat and scales since 2000.

List­ing on Ap­pen­dix I of CITES won’t au­to­mat­i­cally end trade be­cause en­force­ment in many of the con­sumer coun­tries of South-east Asia and the Far East is weak.

The­o­ret­i­cally, all in­ter­na­tional trade in the four Asian speciesp was al­ready il­le­gal, but it was still tak­ing place in large quan­ti­ties.

The sit­u­a­tion was con­fus­ing en­force­ment ef­forts, said Dan Chal­len­der, of the IUCN’s Pan­golin Spe­cial­ist Group. “Now it’s un­am­bigu­ous – wild-caught pan­golins can­not be traded in­ter­na­tion­ally for com­mer­cial pur­poses from ei­ther Africa or Asia,” he added.

But if these list­ings lead to prices ris­ing, that could in­crease poach­ing.p “We need to mon­i­tor the im­pact on mar­kets and prices, trad de dy­nam­ics and pan­golin pop pu­la­tions,” Chal­len­der said.


Onc ce wide­spread birds badly imp pacted by the pet trade. One e of the most heav­ily traded bird ds in the world, the African grey par­rot has been up­listed to Ap­pen­dix I of the con­ven­tion.

This means all trade in wild birds is now banned.

Native to Cen­tral Africa, it is pop­u­lar as a pet in Europe, the USA and the Mid­dle-East.

An es­ti­mated 1 mil­lion birds were taken from the wild in the 1980s and 90s, with those in Cameroon and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo (DRC) heav­ily tar­geted. The ban was op­posed by the DRC, but ex­perts say too many are be­ing har­vested and pop­u­la­tions are de­clin­ing.


Tim­ber species val­ued as fur­ni­ture are given protection. The list­ing on Ap­pen­dix II of more than 250 tree and shrub species from the Dal­ber­gia genus shows how at­ti­tudes within CITES have changed.

David New­ton, of the wildlife-trade mon­i­tor­ing group Traf­fic, said it was very hard to get tim­ber listed – and trade reg­u­lated – when he at­tended the CITES meet­ing in 2002.

“I think there is a new ac­cep­tance that tim­ber species need to be listed,” he said.

Dal­ber­gia wood is shipped to China as ‘rose­wood’ or ‘hongmu’ and made into fur­ni­ture and mu­si­cal in­stru­ments.

With all species listed on Ap­pen­dix II, ex­port­ing coun­tries

will have to carry out a “non­detri­ment find­ing” to show that trade is not hav­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on the sur­vival of the species in the wild. But New­ton warned that many coun­tries have a lot of work to do to get the ap­pro­pri­ate gov­er­nance in place.


Trade in lion bones may lead to in­creased poach­ing, crit­ics say. South Africa has been al­lowed to con­tinue to breed li­ons in cap­tiv­ity for their body parts af­ter this year’s con­fer­ence.

Coun­tries were asked to con­sider ban­ning all trade in their bones by trans­fer­ring li­ons from Ap­pen­dix II to Ap­pen­dix I but this was re­jected.

Con­ser­va­tion­ists say this is an ever-in­creas­ing mar­ket. Be­tween 2008 and 2014, it’s es­ti­mated that 4,900 li­ons’ worth of bones were ex­ported to Asia for use in prod­ucts ul­ti­mately mar­keted as con­tain­ing tiger bones.

While most of these come from cap­tive-breed­ing op­er­a­tions in South Africa – the so-called canned-hunt­ing in­dus­try – crit­ics say it al­lows for wild li­ons to be tar­geted.

“As long as loop­holes ex­ist that per­mit cap­tive-bred li­ons to be farmed, we will see an es­ca­la­tion in wild African cats be­ing killed for the same mar­kets,” said Dr Luke Hunter of the big cat con­ser­va­tion group Pan­thera.

Will Travers of the Born Free Foun­da­tion said a lion car­cass in Mozam­bique was now worth up to $1,500 at the sup­ply end. “Peo­ple are be­ing ap­pre­hended with li­ons parts,” he said.

And while Travers ac­cepted this is not the big­gest is­sue fac­ing the species – habi­tat loss and per­se­cu­tion are – he added: “That’s ir­rel­e­vant. CITES con­fines it­self to in­ter­na­tional trade, and it has to pay at­ten­tion to what it is com­pe­tent to do.”


Ar­gu­ments around le­gal­is­ing horn trade have not gone away. A pro­posal to le­galise the in­ter­na­tional trade in rhino horn from Swazi­land was heav­ily de­feated this year, with 100 del­e­gates vot­ing against, 26 in favour and 17 ab­sten­tions.

This doesn’t mean the de­bate around whether per­mit­ting lim­ited and reg­u­lated trade in horn would help con­serve rhi­nos in Africa has dis­ap­peared.

Ac­cord­ing to Kather­ine John­ston of Save the Rhino In­ter­na­tional, short­com­ings in the Swazi­land pro­posal were high­lighted in a re­port pub­lished by the IUCN and the wildlife­trade mon­i­tor­ing group Traf­fic.

The re­port said the pro­posal lacked de­tail on how trade would be con­trolled and who the trad­ing part­ners would be.

Nev­er­the­less, it has played a role in high­light­ing the is­sue. “The pro­posal was symp­to­matic of a wide rift be­tween an­i­mal welfare and pro-sus­tain­able use or­gan­i­sa­tions which need to find some com­mon ground,” she said.

There were also dis­cus­sions about whether one key con­sumer coun­try, China, should be more di­le­gent about re­port­ing its pro­gess in re­duc­ing de­mand.

De­mand re­duc­tion worked in the past, ac­cord­ing to Save the Rhino, for South Korea and Tai­wan, which were ma­jor horn con­sumers in the 1980s and 90s.


Small vic­to­ries for those op­posed to tiger farm­ing. The poach­ing of tigers for their bones, skins and claws con­tin­ues to be an is­sue, and con­ser­va­tion­ists in­sist that the il­le­gal trade is fu­elled by the ex­is­tence of tiger farms in China, Laos and Thai­land.

The Wildlife Protection So­ci­ety of In­dia says at least 36 tigers were killed in In­dia for their body parts in the first six months of 2016 – a 40 per cent rise on the to­tal for all of 2015.

Con­ser­va­tion groups say tiger farms ex­ac­er­bate de­mand. “Gov­ern­ments made it clear they see trade in the parts of cap­tive­bred tigers as a threat to wild tigers, be­cause it fu­els de­sir­abil­ity for them,” said Deb­bie Banks of the En­vi­ron­men­tal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (EIA).

Two de­vel­op­ments at the con­fer­ence have made tiger farm­ing – whereby tigers are bred so body parts can be sold – marginally less ap­peal­ing.

First, del­e­gates re­jected a call from the Chi­nese that CITES end its op­po­si­tion to tiger farm­ing. An agree­ment reached in 2007 that tiger farms should be phased out is there­fore still in place, though it isn’t bind­ing.

Sec­ond, Laos PDR an­nounced it will close its tiger farms. It has three main fa­cil­i­ties with 700 tigers, ac­cord­ing to the EIA.

But Banks said the de­ci­sion not to ban the in­ter­na­tion­alaoa trade in bones from cap­tive­bred li­ons was a bloww to big cat con­ser­va­tion ev­ery­where. here.

“There is a mas­sive, unchecked, un­chal­lenged mar­ket t for tiger bone wine,” she said. “You see it ev­ery­where, and no­body ody is chal­leng­ing it in terms rms of de­mand re­duc­tion.”.”


Silky and thresher sharks and devil rays given protection. The list­ing of shark species, so that any le­gal trade in their meat or fins is reg­u­lated, is be­com­ing more ac­cepted by par­ties to CITES.

Por­bea­gles, oceanic whitetips, all three species of ham­mer­head shark and all manta rays were put onto Ap­pen­dix II in 2014, while seven species of saw­fish were sim­i­larly listed in 2007.

And this year, pro­pos­als for the silky shark, all three species of thresher shark and nine species of mob­ula (or devil) ray to be given protection un­der Ap­pen­dix II were ap­proved.

Ali Hood, di­rec­tor of con­ser­va­tion of the Shark Trust, said that sharks have not been treated with the same level of con­cern as other ma­rine spec species es tak­ena for con­sump­tion, such as wh white fish, tuna or bill bill­fish, but that this wa was now chang­ing. Ho How­ever, some na­tions are still o op­posed to the use of CITES as a way of reg­u­lat­ing the trade in sharks, she said. “In our view view, CITES is part of a wider jig­sawj of the ef­fort re­quired to se­cure a sus­tain­able fu­ture for t them,” she added.

Il­le­gal ex­ploita­tion of hard­woods is the largest com­po­nent of the il­le­gal wildlife trade and worth up to $7bn a year.

Ivory poach­ing has re­duced African ele­phant pop­u­la­tions by an es­ti­mated 30 per cent in seven years. Pan­golins are now fully pro­tected un­der CITES, but will this re­duce the high lev­els of trade?

Too many African grey par­rots are taken for the pet trade.

The bones of li­ons bred for the canned hunt­ing in­dus­try are sold into Asian mar­kets and are ul­ti­mately made into prod­ucts mar­keted as tiger bone wine.

A pro­posal to open up the in­ter­na­tional trade in rhino horn was de­feated.

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