Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, participated in the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of Parties in Geneva, Switzerland, along with representatives from more than 150 countries this week. This world wildlife conference aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded while still living, as “products,” such as fur coats, or after they are deceased, such as dried herbs.
At the conference, proposals were debated for a large variety of species from elephants to sea cucumbers, offering various levels of protection depending on the severity of threats and data available. “The world is almost certainly at a tipping point as human impact on the natural environment on which we all depend has never been greater. That pressure imposes itself on every aspect of our limited natural resources, whether that’s water, air, soil, plant or animal, as evidenced by the IPBES report, which was published recently which says that there are a million species that face extinction,” said Born Free President Will Travers OBE. “These decisions are promising, but the hard work continues. We need to do more. We need to do more to support communities that live alongside wildlife to reduce wildlife conflict with people and we need to make the world safer for the threatened species and human beings.”
Africa’s elephant populations continue to fall due to continued illegal killing, land transformation and rapid human expansion. Global illegal ivory trade transactions remain as high as in the previous six years, with record numbers of large-scale ivory seizures reported in 2016. Several proposals at CITES centered around elephants, including two proposals that would have weakened protections for this iconic species that were soundly rejected. Countries voted successfully to tighten restrictions on the trade in wild baby elephants captured in Zimbabwe and Botswana and sent to foreign captive facilities, a major victory that will cut back significantly on the number of baby elephants sent to overseas zoos!
This emblematic African species, which plays an important role in the savanna ecosystem and once inhabited much of the African continent, has declined in the past and continues to decline today. The wild giraffe population has decreased from about 157,000 individuals in 1985 to about 97,500 in 2015.
While it will not stop the trade of the giraffe and its parts and products, the decision to list giraffes in Appendix II will improve their conservation as it will enable the CITES community to monitor international trade in a way that will ensure that the trade in this species will not reduce the wild population to a level at which its survival might be threatened by trade or other threats.
Two species of otter – the small-clawed otter and the smooth-coated otter – will receive greater protection after decisions made this week. These species are some of many that are threatened by their “cuteness,” with social media driving the exotic pet trade in these animals. These actions mean that all international commercial trade in these species would be prohibited and will enable better conservation of these two species.
Government officials at CITES CoP18 voted in favor of granting several marine species, including mako sharks, guitarfishes, and wedgefishes, increased management and trade observation by officially listing them in Appendix II. While these listings will not prohibit commercial trade, they will ensure that such trade is legal and sustainable and that the species are not driven further towards extinction.
For more information about Born Free USA’s involvement in CITES, visit www.bornfreeusa.org/citescop18