Two weeks of intense negotiations closed here Tuesday as 152 governments adopted groundbreaking decisions regulating legal, sustainable and traceable trade in wildlife. They protected African elephants, pangolins and rosewoods, among many other species.
As Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, they strengthened actions to combat illicit wildlife trafficking, give higher protection to entire groups of species, implement targeted demand reduction strategies for illegally traded wildlife, and engage more closely with rural communities.
The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, #CoP17, was the largest meeting of its kind ever held, with 152 governments taking decisions on 62 species-listing proposals submitted by 64 countries.
In sum, 51 proposals were accepted, five were rejected and six were withdrawn.
Over 3,500 people attended the meeting, which also recorded the highest number of side events and attracted media interest from every region of the world.
The conference was marked by agreement on measures to improve sustainable trade in the queen conch, humphead wrasse, sharks, snakes and the African wild dog as well as a large range of timber species, such as bubinga and rosewoods, and the African cherry and agarwood.
Parties recognized several conservation success stories, including that of the Cape mountain zebra, several species of crocodiles and the wood bison, which were all by consensus downlisted from Appendix I under CITES to Appendix II in recognition of their improved conservation status.
There was fresh impetus to safeguard threatened wild animals and plants with added protection for the African grey parrot, Barbary Macaque, Blaine’s fishhook cactus, elephant, pangolin and saiga antelope.
Targeted enforcement measures were agreed to combat illegal trade for specific species including: the African grey parrot, African lion, cheetah, helmeted hornbill, pangolin, rhino and totoaba.
Many new animals and plants were also added to CITES Appendices for the first time, and now will come under CITES trade controls.
These decisions affect a large number of mammals, marine and timber species as well as many reptiles and amphibians and include more than 350 species of rosewood, devil rays, silky sharks and thresher sharks.
#CoP17 saw a number of firsts, including, the first ever:
• Resolution on corruption and wildlife crime;
• Decisions on cybercrime and wildlife crime;
• Resolution on strategies to reduce the demand for illegally traded wildlife,
• Resolutions affecting the helmeted hornbill and snakes;
• Decisions on targeting the illegal fishing of and trade in totoaba, and the related illegal killing of the vaquita;
• Resolution and decisions on youth engagement in CITES; and
• Decisions on rural communities engagement, providing a greater voice for local people in managing wildlife.
Other outcomes include:
• The rejection of a Decision-Making Mechanism (DMM) for a future trade in ivory;
• An agreement to close domestic markets in ivory where they contribute to poaching or illegal trade;
• The rejection of all proposals to change the protection of Southern African elephant populations;
• Stricter monitoring and regulation of hunting trophies to bring them under trade control measures, including recommending conservation benefits and incentives for people to conserve wildlife;
• A decision to conduct a study to improve knowledge on regulation of trade in the European eel, and to look more broadly at all Anguilla eels;
• An agreement to undertake specific work on marine turtles to understand the impact of international trade on their conservation status;
• The introduction of a captive breeding compliance process to check the authenticity of specimens described as captive bred;
• Acceptance of the National Ivory Action Plans as a tool for those Parties mostly affected by illegal trade in ivory, including source, transit and destination countries, to build their capacity in addressing illegal trade and ensuring compliance with the commitments they make under the plans;
• A decision to undertake studies in legal and illegal trade in lion bones and other parts and derivatives;
• A request to review all species listed on Appendix I to identify what measures are needed to improve their conservation status;
• Improvements to processes to ensure that wildlife trade is sustainable, legal and traceable; and
• Agreements on process to improve traceability and identification of CITES-listed species.
Changes to the CITES Appendices, Resolutions and Decisions enter into force 90 days after the CoP.