Made up of 182 nations, CITES is tasked primarily with conservation and trade issues in relation to wild life. The key decisions made were:
Ivory markets and elephants
Zimbabwe and Namibia requested to be allowed to resume a legal trade in ivory so that the revenue can be used to help with conservation efforts. The two countries’ elephant populations are currently listed under CITES Appendix II with an annotation that prohibits them from engaging in the ivory trade during the nine years between 2007-2016. They argue that only by allowing wildlife to contribute to national revenues can they run truly sustainable conservation policies. But conservationists argue that only a total ban will enable a proper crack-down on the massive illegal trade that is critically endangering the world’s elephant population. A call was passed for the closure of all domestic ivory markets that contribute to illegal trade and poaching.
It is believed that the rhino horn can increase fertility and hence a growing demand for the horn in the Asian market. The illegal trading of rhino horn is valued and millions of dollars with countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Nepal, Namibia, and Zimbabwe being the preferred destination for poachers. A proposal from Swaziland that would have allowed it to sell its 330kg stockpile of horn in order, to use the money to help support rhino conservation work, was defeated.
Sharks and Rays
The decision to place nine species of ray, three thresher shark species and the silky shark under international trade restrictions was met with great celebration at the conference.
The motion to increase the protection of lions and ban all trade on captive-lion parts was defeated. There is an increase in the trade of lion bones for medicinal purposes in the Asian market. The decision was met with great disappointment from lion conservationists.
The African Grey Parrot
The African Grey Parrot was moved into Appendix 1, the highest level of protection, with a complete ban on the trading of the amicable bird. The parrot is hugely popular as a pet and is a beautiful and intelligent creature. The bird has been heavily hunted in Africa with numbers in some parts of Ghana dwindling by up to 99%.
All 300 species of Rosewood have been under strict trade restrictions. Rosewood is in high demand, with the market for the dark wood growing up to 65 times since 2005. The forests are largely found in South East Asia however the dwindling forest have pushed exploration for the tree into Africa and South America.
The scales of the pangolin are in high demand for medicinal purposes in parts of Africa and Asia whilst its flesh is considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam. The high demand for this scaly animal has placed it on the brink of extinction. Cites has placed all species of pangolin in the highest protection category in efforts to avert the continued decline in population.
The Cites was considered as a major win towards conservation and wildlife protection. However, there is concern that this approach focuses on populations that are already under threat and doesn’t heed the potential dangers for other forms of wildlife.
About the author:
Nikiwe Solomon is a research fellow with the African Centre for a Green Economy and is currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Humanities at the University of Cape Town, where she looks at the Kuils River to better understand how the relationship between the river and communities shape each other. Her interests lie in exploring the human nature relationship in the context of interacting social, political and economic systems.