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By Editor
18 January 2016   |   3:00 am
CLOSE to 500 delegates from across the globe gathered in Geneva, Monday, to tackle crucial wildlife conservation and management issues that threaten the survival of a myriad of wild plants and animals.
Secretary-General of CITES, Mr John Scanlon

Secretary-General of CITES, Mr John Scanlon

CLOSE to 500 delegates from across the globe gathered in Geneva, Monday, to tackle crucial wildlife conservation and management issues that threaten the survival of a myriad of wild plants and animals.

The 66th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – world’s wildlife trade regulator since 1975 – will address issues, such as the illegal killing of elephants and rhinos, and the illegal trade in Asian big cats, pangolins and high value timber species, including rosewood.

The meeting will also address the adequacy of national legislation to implement CITES in 17 priority countries and the lack of submission of annual reports of trade, including considering compliance measures. A review of significant volumes of trade in selected species will also be considered, together with recommendations to ensure the trade in these species sustainable.

The Committee will finalize its recommendations to the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP 17) the triennial World Wildlife Conference, at which the 181 Parties to CITES will take critical decisions on wildlife trade policy and the scope of regulatory control over international trade in specific species.

Secretary-General of CITES, Mr John Scanlon, said: “Tackling illicit wildlife trafficking has risen to the top of the political agenda and a global collective effort is underway to reverse the disturbing trends affecting elephants, rhinos, pangolins, rosewood and other species. 2016 will be a critical year for reviewing the on-ground impacts of our collective endeavours, further strengthening policies, budgets, laws and enforcement, as well as enhancing measures to reduce demand for illegal wildlife products, which will all come together at CITES CoP17 in Johannesburg in just 256 days from now.”

At the same time, we are seeing scaled up efforts to improve legal and sustainable trade, such as through CITES Parties’ concerted efforts to implement CITES listings of sharks.” added Scanlon.
During the course of this week, the Standing Committee will consider compliance measures, including recommendations to suspend trade, which will affect a number of Parties. These include:
Seven countries may be subject to a recommendation to suspend trade in all CITES-listed species for failing to make sufficient progress in preparing and adopting national legislation to implement and enforce CITES.
20 species- and country-specific trade suspensions will be discussed resulting from the ongoing Review of Significant Trade process, which assesses whether the levels of trade that Parties allow for certain wild animals or plants are sustainable. These range from monkeys and pythons from Laos and chameleons from Benin, Cameroon and Ghana, to giant clams from Solomon Islands and corals from Fiji.

The suspension of trade in some high-value timber species from Madagascar: 48 species of Dalbergia (5 rosewoods and 43 palisanders) and 233 species of Diospyros (ebonys) in consideration of the continued illegal logging and illegal exports.
the suspension of commercial trade in Psittacus erithacus(African grey parrots) from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Some countries may be subject to potential compliance measures for not submitting annual reports on trade in CITES-listed species.
The issue of corruption will be a matter of discussion at the meeting. A number of CITES-listed species are high value items targeted by organized crime groups, and this makes the officers responsible for regulating trade in specimens of these species potentially vulnerable to corruption. It is becoming increasingly important for CITES Parties to ensure that adequate measures are in place to identify, prevent and address corruption in line with the UN Convention against Corruption.

The proportion of CITES-listed animals species in international trade that are reported as having been bred in captivity, born in captivity or ranched has been steadily increasing over many years. For commercial trade in live animals, it accounted for over half of all reported trade during the period 2000-2012. A similar trend appears for plant specimens that have been artificially propagated. This trend is expected to continue, particularly if demand for animals and plants remains the same, or increases, with supplies from the wild being increasingly difficult to obtain. However, the impact of this change on the conservation and sustainable use of the species concerned is poorly known and deserves closer analysis.

Declaring specimens as captive bred or artificially propagated has also been used to “launder” animals and plants illegally sourced from the wild. Delegates will consider proposals for CoP17 designed to improve the implementation of the Convention in relation to specimens of non-wild source.

The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) will unveil this week a series of documents and programmes and highlight 5 years of achievements in combating wildlife crime.
The level of elephant poaching in Africa has declined somewhat since the peak reached 2011, but remains at unsustainably high levels. This trend appears to correlate with population declines in parts of the continent.
The meeting will discuss the progress made in the preparation and implementation of National Ivory Action Plans (NIAPs) by 19 countries (8 Parties of “primary concern”, 8 Parties of “secondary concern” and 3 Parties of “importance to watch”) identified as most heavily implicated in the illegal trade in ivory including source, transit and destination States.

This is a major concrete effort initiated by CITES to address the surge in elephant poaching and the illegal trade in elephant ivory, which has proven to be a successful approach to address a complicated issue.
Parties will be invited to consider strengthening cooperation at all levels, not only among range States, but also with transit and destination countries, to reduce the current levels of illegal trade in these valuable species to the minimum possible. Also, the Secretariat is proposing to continue strengthening capacities worldwide to implement CITES for rosewood, palisanders and ebonies for the next three years after the upcoming CITES CoP17.

The first comprehensive study of the global legal and illegal trade in cheetahs, presented to the previous CITES Standing Committee, identified illegal trade as one of the main challenges facing cheetah, a CITES Appendix I species since 1975. Eastern Africa is the region with the highest recorded levels of illegal trafficking in live cheetahs, with the Gulf States being the primary destination. The Standing Committee working group on cheetah has gathered further information from 33 Parties and convened a cheetah workshop in Kuwait in November 2015. Public awareness, enhanced cooperation in law enforcement between East Africa and the Middle East, cooperation on the disposal of confiscated live cheetahs and development of capacity building tools are identified as main solutions to address the issues. The working group is proposing a set of recommendations and draft decisions to CoP17.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently the range State with the largest volume of exports of wild-sourced grey parrots. According to trade records reported by importing countries, DRC has exceeded the annual export quota for various consecutive years. There are no recent scientific studies on the status of the DRC populations of grey parrot, which can provide a science base for the establishment of quotas. There are however suggestions that the populations are declining. Furthermore, the mortality rate in domestic transport, preceding export, is alarmingly high (50 per cent or higher).

In the light of the current situation, the Standing Committee is asked to consider a recommendation for all Parties to suspend commercial trade in grey parrots from DRC until all the concerns and recommendations have been sufficiently addressed.

All Pangolin species (4 Asian and 4 African species) were included Appendix II of CITES in 1994. Since 2000, there has been a zero annual quota for Asian pangolin species. Illegal trade in pangolin specimens is a growing international problem not only affecting Asian pangolin range States, but also those in Africa. The Working Group on Pangolins has been working to formulate recommendations to address the illegal trade in pangolin species, including on monitoring and management, legislation, enforcement, stockpile management, captive breeding, awareness raising, education and demand management. The Working Group will report on its work at the meeting.

Snakes are bred in high numbers in certain countries to supply the demand for food, skins and pets. The harvesting of snakes, and in some cases the processing of their skins and other body parts, is of economic importance and contributes important revenue to local communities. However, unregulated or unsustainable trade in snakes can pose a significant threat to wild snake populations, and international cooperation is needed to address these threats. In this light, the Standing Committee will consider the drafting of a Resolution on the conservation, sustainable use of and trade in snakes, based on the latest scientific findings. The Committee will also start developing guidance for traceability systems for snake skins.