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CITES lifts ban on rosewoods, related tree species exports

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Youths from south west states at the climate incubation hub organised by Climate Change Department, Federal Ministry of Environment in Ibadan, Oyo State

The 169 Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including Nigeria have adopted decisions and resolutions advancing the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife across the globe.

Governments had submitted 56 new proposals to change the levels of protection that CITES provides for species of wild animals and plants that are in international trade. Many of these proposals seek to ensure that trade in at-risk species remains sustainable by requiring trade permits through a CITES Appendix II listing.

Others recommend banning all commercial trade in specimens of species threatened by extinction by listing them on Appendix I. Still others aim to provide evidence that a population has stabilized or expanded and can be safely transferred from Appendix I to Appendix II.

But at the end of its triennial World Wildlife Conference, known formally as CoP18 held at Palexpo in Geneva, CITES broadened the need for trade permits to include plywood and other forms; in response to high and increasing demand for African teak from West Africa. 

The conference also amended an earlier Appendix II listing of rosewoods and related tree species to ensure that small finished items, including musical instruments, parts, and accessories, could be carried across borders without the need for CITES permits.

It revised the trade rules for dozens of wildlife species that are threatened by unstainable trade linked to overharvesting, overfishing or overhunting. These ranged from commercially valuable fish and trees to charismatic mammals such as giraffes to amphibians and reptiles sold as exotic pets.

Governments furthermore agreed to examine the trade in live ornamental marine fish to assess what role CITES could or should play in regulating this trade.

CITES Standing Committee had last year suspended commercial trade in the African Rosewood (Millettia laurentii) from Nigeria for authorising over 180,000 m3 of the precious timber to China and Viet Nam, without first making sure that these exports will not threaten the survival of the species.

In response, the Federal government imposed a levy of N200, 000 on every container of Rosewood export with a view to ensuring proper regulation of the export.

The levy for fully processed wood and charcoal attract levy of N100, 000 and N75, 000,00 respectively. The levies are meant to raise funds for re-forestation while discouraging deforestation.

COP 18 also noted that 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. The Parties established the CITES Big Cat Task Force with a mandate to improve enforcement, tackle illegal trade and promote collaboration on conserving tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars, and leopards.

The conference further reviewed the measures for the export of live African elephants to “appropriate and acceptable destinations”, whereby exports outside their natural range will be permitted in “exceptional circumstances” only, in consultation with relevant CITES and IUCN bodies, and only if they provide in “situ conservation benefits.”

It did not accept proposals to permit some limited trade in ivory from African elephants, which means that the existing trade ban remains in place.

As many countries and their CITES management authorities lack the necessary financial and institutional capacity to sustainably manage and conserve their wildlife. The conference took decisions promoting capacity building and other activities aimed at strengthening wildlife management and compliance with and enforcement of CITES trade rules.

In addition, the critical role of local and indigenous communities that live on the frontlines of wildlife conservation and sustainable management, and their need for adequate incomes and livelihoods, was widely recognized. 

Overcoming a wide range of differing views, the conference asked Parties to begin considering how to best engage indigenous peoples and local communities in CITES decision-making and implementation. The aim is to better achieve the objectives of the Convention while recognizing those people whose use of CITES-listed species contributes significantly to their livelihoods.

“Humanity needs to respond to the growing extinction crisis by transforming the way we manage the world’s wild animals and plants. Business, as usual, is no longer an option,” said CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero.

“CITES conserves our natural world by ensuring that international trade in wild plants and animals is legal, sustainable and traceable. Well-managed trade also contributes to human wellbeing, livelihoods and the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.

About 1,700 delegates, observers and journalists attended the conference. CoP19 will be held in 2022 in Costa Rica.


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