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Proposals to change protection levels of species under international trade unveiled

Some 57 proposals to amend the lists of species subject to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) regulations were submitted by 90 countries for consideration at the next World Wildlife Conference – the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CITES (CoP18), to be held from May 23 to June 3, 2019 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Ms. Ivonne Higuero CITES
CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero

In addition, a record 140 documents proposing new measures and policies on international trade in wild fauna and flora were submitted for consideration by the Conference.

The proposals to amend the lists of species (i.e. the CITES Appendices) and other documents will be decided upon at the triennial meeting of the 183 Parties to CITES (i.e. 182 countries and the European Union). The proposals are now available on the CITES website in the languages and formats in which they were received. Parties have until mid-March 2019 to provide their comments on these proposals. The CITES Secretariat will also invite comments from relevant intergovernmental bodies.

“The stakes are high under CITES and robust debates are to be expected. Decisions taken in Colombo will have a real and immediate effect on the legislation, regulation, and operating practices across the globe for international trade in the species concerned. Decisions taken at CoP18 will also alter their conservation and international trade management, and have direct impacts on biodiversity, livelihoods of rural communities and national economies,” said CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero.

The 57 listing proposals cover a wide range of species, from mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects to a variety of plant species including high value rosewood species. Countries are continuing to use their Convention for ensuring that timber and marine resources are not overexploited by proposing new timber and fishery species for inclusion in the CITES Appendices. For the first time, a proposal has been submitted to include the giraffe, the world’s tallest land mammal, under CITES. There is also a proposal to list the mammoth, an extinct species, in CITES Appendix II.

The three proposals on African elephants show the divergence of opinions among range States of this species on how to deal with international trade in elephant products: two aim at easing controls on international trade in African elephant products, and one at prohibiting all commercial trade.  While Namibia is proposing to downlist its population of white rhinos to Appendix II, to allow only international commercial trade in live animals and hunting trophies, the proposal from Eswatini seeks to allow unrestricted international commercial trade in all specimens of its white rhino population, which is currently included in Appendix II.

CITES is a legally binding agreement which aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. It does so by monitoring, listing and regulating legal and sustainable wildlife trade and by combating illegal trade in wildlife. It currently regulates trade in over 36,000 species of wild animals and plants.

CITES determines international rules governing trade in wildlife. Governments will consider and accept, reject or adjust these proposals for amending the CITES Appendices at CoP18. Unlike most other international agreements, CITES Parties decide by vote where consensus is not possible, with a two thirds majority required.

Higuero recently paid a visit to Sri Lanka, the CoP18 host country, to discuss preparations for conference, where she met John A. E. Amaratunga, Minister of Wildlife, Tourism and Christian Religious Affairs.

“I was encouraged by the commitment at the highest levels of decision makers to ensure that the necessary steps will be taken in the next days so that preparations are on track for the next World Wildlife Conference – CITES CoP18. We look forward to facilitating the optimal setting for these discussions for the 183 Parties to CITES, the observers from intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations and the private sector, as well as representatives from rural communities in Colombo in 2019,” added Higuero.

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