September 19, 2016
Ahead of CITES wildlife trade conference, HSI warns leaders “it’s do or die” for iconic elephants, rhinos, lions, pangolins, sharks, rays, and many other wild plants and animals
Wildlife experts at Humane Society International warn that decisions taken at the upcoming CITES international wildlife trade meeting, could be ‘do or die’ for some of the world’s most iconic and threatened wild species such as African elephant, rhinos, and pangolins.
Teresa Telecky, director of the HSI’s wildlife department and leader of the organization’s delegation at the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP17) in Johannesburg, South Africa, said: “With so many of our wild animal and plant species facing serious threats from rapacious poaching and commercial trade, this CITES meeting represents a ‘do or die’ moment for iconic animals such as elephants, rhinos, lions, and pangolins. Either countries do the right thing and give these imperiled species the highest level of protection possible against unsustainable exploitation, or we risk seeing them die out altogether in the wild. Humane Society International urges world leaders not to allow these creatures to move one step closer to extinction.”
This major meeting on the regulation of trade in wild species runs from 24 September to 5 October 2016, and Humane Society International’s delegation of 11 wildlife experts will be in attendance. Key proposals to be discussed include:
- Increased protection for all African elephants with an uplisting to Appendix I: despite the major poaching crisis facing African elephants, two southern African countries - Zimbabwe and Namibia – are proposing to legalize their ivory trade, while others are seeking approval for a mechanism to trade ivory in future. Their proposals are opposed by the 29-country-strong African Elephant Coalition, representing 70 per cent of African elephant range States, which is advocating a return to full Appendix I protection for all African elephant populations, closure of all domestic ivory markets, and an end to any discussion on re-opening ivory trade in the future.
- Swaziland’s proposal to legalise international rhino horn trade (from its southern white rhinos): only about 25,600 rhinos of five species exist today, and all rhino species are threatened by poaching. HSI hopes to see this proposal defeated, as it could undermine worldwide efforts to eliminate demand for rhino horn.
- Increased protection for African lions by transferring them from Appendix II to Appendix I: there may be as few as 20,000 wild lions left in Africa. International trade in lion parts, particularly lion bones, is growing, incentivising the poaching of tigers and other big cat species. HSI supports this proposal, but a number of countries, including the European Union bloc, currently oppose it as written.
- Transfer of all eight species of pangolins from Appendix II to Appendix I: pangolins are the most trafficked wild mammal, with all eight species threatened with extinction due to poaching mainly for their scales used in traditional medicine. China, the main consumer of pangolin, is expected to oppose the proposal. HSI supports the proposals.
- Listing the silky shark, thresher sharks and devil rays on CITES Appendix II: silky and thresher sharks are threatened by commercial trade in their fins, used in shark fin soup in Asia, and devil rays by trade in their gill plates, used in health tonics in Asia. Many Asian countries are expected to strongly oppose; HSI strongly supports.
- Listing chambered nautiluses on CITES Appendix II: these unusual marine invertebrates are being overfished for their beautiful shells for decorative purposes. Some of the range States that are not co-sponsors of the proposal may oppose. HSI strongly supports.
- Providing increased international protection for the helmeted hornbill: Poaching for the “ivory” in its bill is threatening to wipe out Asia’s largest hornbill, already listed on Appendix I. HSI supports Indonesia’s request for greater protection of this species, including international cooperation among law enforcement agencies in its range.