Guest blog from Ilaria De Silvestre, Eurogroup For Animals’ Wildlife Programme Leader. OneKind is a member of Eurogroup for Animals.
Eurogroup for Animals attended the 18th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva last month. The conference focused on revising the trade rules for dozens of wildlife species that are threatened by unsustainable trade practices.
The main highlights from the CITES CoP18 included:
Guidelines on suitable housing and care facilities for Appendix I specimens
The consensus adopted a generic guidance and associated decisions for the identification of “appropriate and acceptable destinations” for living Appendix I specimens, including elephants and rhinos. You can find them here. These guidelines will help to assess whether proposed housing and care facilities are appropriate and suitable to host live elephants and rhinos. This represents a big step forward for the protection of the welfare of these species in captivity and we hope the next step will be the adoption of species-specific binding guidance.
During CITES Cop18, several proposals focused on elephants, including two that would have weakened the protection of this species by allowing the reopening of ivory trade. Both of them were soundly rejected. Thanks to the massive mobilisation of our member organisations and the international animal advocates network, severe restrictions to the export of live wild-caught Appendix II elephants (from populations in Zimbabwe and Botswana) were adopted. The adopted document only allows for the trade to in situNEWS conservation programmes within the species natural range. This represents a historic moment for elephants, as they can no longer be traded to international zoos and other captive facilities. Find more details here.
The conference added the giraffes to Appendix II because they have declined by 36-40% over the past three decades due to habitat loss and other pressures. This means that trade in giraffes will now be regulated for the first time. While this does not ban the trade of giraffes’ skins and other parts, this landmark decision will improve the conservation of this species as it will enable the CITES community to monitor their international trade and prevent the reduction of the wild population to a point where its survival may be threatened.
Threatened by habitat loss and often traded as pets, Asia’s smooth-coated and small-clawed otters were transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I, which prohibits all commercial trade of the species that it lists. As their numbers in the wild have fallen by at least 30% in the past 30 years, the decision is welcomed by conservationists.
Reptiles and other exotic pet species
As the growing exotic pet trade has put enormous pressure on many species of turtle, lizard and gecko, CITES added a range of these species to the Appendices. A suite of lizard species from Sri Lanka were listed in Appendix I, along with the tiny gecko endemic to St Vincent and the Grenadines. Four gecko species from China and South East Asia (Tokay, Tiger, Cave and Leopard) and another from Madagascar were listed in Appendix II. Sadly, proposals to end the trade in stunning garden lizards from Sri Lanka faced opposition from the EU, despite this species being endangered and regularly on sale in Europe and the USA. In addition, European voting bloc thwarted protection for 104 species of glass frog from Amazon rainforests.
The Parties established the CITES Big Cat Task Force with a mandate to improve enforcement, tackle illegal trade and promote collaboration on the conservation of tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars and leopards.
Disposal of confiscated specimens
Initially the proposed Decisions were wholly inadequate, aiming at closing the CITES works on this important topic when so many issues concerning the management of confiscated live animals remain unresolved. We managed to get enough support among Parties to secure an in-session working group, and then the agreement to the improved Decisions that you can find here. Even if not ideal, this adopted document allow us to continue to work on this issue, particularly to improve the Parties development and implementation of Action Plans for the appropriate management of live animal confiscations.