Sense of urgency in conserving wildlife trumps trade at CITES

Sense of urgency in conserving wildlife trumps trade at CITES
Tuesday, 4 October, 2016
Johannesburg, South Africa

As the world’s biggest wildlife trade jamboree wrapped up in Johannesburg, South Africa today, the general consensus was that conservation trumped commerce in many significant votes for animals.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) takes place once every three years, and this year brought together more than 4,000 representatives from governments and the conservation community to debate issues with regards to the trade in endangered wild animals and plants.

“We’ve seen a real shift in the mindset of the decision makers at this conference; and there is a sense that conservation considerations were foremost when making their findings to protect wildlife rather than simply considering their market value,” said Kelvin Alie, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Director for Wildlife Trade.

Important decisions taken for animals in the past two weeks include the transfer to Appendix I of the endangered African grey parrot, all eight pangolin species and Barbary macaque monkeys, meaning they may no longer be internationally traded for commerce. The silky shark, thresher sharks and devil rays have been included in Appendix II, allowing trade only with special permits and calling for certain monitoring measures to be put in place.

A bid by Swaziland to allow it to trade rhino horn was rejected outright; while a proposal to have the elephant populations of Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe moved to Appendix I was defeated.

However it was not all doom and gloom for elephants; Parties roundly rejected attempts by Namibia and Zimbabwe to transfer all elephant species to appendix II, opening the door to potential trade. Last week CITES also voted to unequivocally abandon the controversial Decision Making Mechanism (DMM) for a future process to trade in ivory.

“IFAW fully supported this decision. Given the current elephant poaching crisis, and the need to urgently address the lack of enforcement and compliance,” said Alie. “There is no room for consideration of a process that would allow trade in ivory.”

One of the biggest disappointments of the CoP was the decision not to promote African lions from Appendix II to Appendix I, which would have prohibited international commercial trade in lions or lion parts.

“Instead Parties voted in favor of establishing a zero annual export quota for the bones and claws of wild lions to be traded for commercial purposes, while South Africa, the only country currently commercially trading lion parts from captive bred populations will have to establish annual export quotas for trade in these parts and report to CITES each year,” said Alie.   

About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at


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