High expectations from CITES conference in South Africa

Years of work protecting animals from trade will come to fruition in the next two weeks.

And the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) delegation is optimistic that while not every proposal decision will be a win for the many species on the line at this Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP 17) in Johannesburg, South Africa, parties are poised to make much positive change overall and shoot down proposals deleterious to animal welfare and survival.

But success depends on more than a handful of decisions.

Our view of conservation—one that is grounded in on our vision of animal welfare, sound science and the precautionary principle—must be at the core of all decisions taken at the CoP.

So while short-term political or economic interests may sink a few of the proposals, we are confident that the work that the conservation and animal welfare community has pursued has been acknowledged and we are moving in the right direction on animal protection on the whole.

While we all wait with baited breath regarding decisions on iconic species such as rhinos, elephants, and lions, I am hoping other species up for consideration—some of whom you have not heard of before and are under intense pressure (pangolins, Barbary macaques, African gray parrots) and some of whom are being considered for CITES protections for the first time (certain sharks and rays)—get their due attention as well.

For a review of where IFAW stands on a number of the particular proposals, click on the respective links below:

Elephants and ivory

Zimbabwe and Namibia are trying to lessen the protection status of their elephant populations in order to be able to sell stockpiled ivory. Hopefully the larger coalition of 29 African countries will prevail, and make the right decisions for elephant populations and individuals.

READ: No on split-listing: Give elephants equal protections across Africa


Pangolins—the most illegally traded mammal in the world—are particularly sensitive to over-exploitation because their reproduction rate is very low. All eight pangolin species have to be transferred to Appendix I to ensure maximum protection from further commercial trade in their parts.

READ: Submitted CITES proposals advocate for pangolins

Rhino horn

Swaziland’s proposal to CoP17 proposing trade in rhino horn flies in the face of global efforts to protect the last remaining wild rhino populations, and IFAW urges Parties to OPPOSE this proposal.

READ: Swaziland’s CITES proposal on rhino horn trade puts it out on a limb

Captured live elephants

A proposal was presented by Burkina Faso and several other African nations to better protect live elephants in trade by recommending that “all elephant range States have in place legislative, regulatory, enforcement, or other measures to prevent illegal and detrimental trade in live elephants and to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment of live elephants in trade.”

READ: CITES proposal preview: Easing the suffering of captured live elephants in trade

African gray parrots

Populations of African greys have decreased by 50-90 percent in some areas of its current distribution with very low numbers recorded in Angola, Benin, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea—Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Togo. It is time that CITES uplists the African grey parrot to Appendix I to protect this bird from the commercial and unsustainable exploitation it has endured over the last few decades.

READ: Protecting world’s third-most traded bird at CITES

An Appendix II listing for all rays is necessary in order to ensure that international trade demand does not continue to drive unsustainable fisheries. An Appendix II listing for silky shark and thresher sharks species will ensure that international trade is supplied by sustainably managed and accurately recorded fisheries that are not detrimental to the status of the wild populations they exploit.

READ: Appendix II Listing for Devil Rays for more protection at CITES

READ: Appendix II listing for silky, thresher sharks

Barbary macaques

After several years of tireless advocacy from different NGOs to protect the species from extinction, the European Union and Morocco submitted the proposal to transfer Macaca sylvanus from Appendix II to Appendix I of CITES, and IFAW supports the proposal.

READ: Uplist Barbary macaques for more protection at CITES

I’ll be blogging daily from Johannesburg, bringing together all relevant news from the Conference into a daily round-up.

Stay tuned for some big collaboration announcements during the CoP.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime