Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Good and bad news from CITES CoP17

Posted: 3 October 2016. Updated: 5 October 2016

Every two-three years, the 183 countries who are signatories to the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) treaty, meet to decide which species need further protection, and which species will endure further killing and trade.

2016’s CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP17) was held in Johannesburg, and ADI’s President Jan Creamer, Vice-President Tim Phillips, and General Counsel Christina Scaringe, were there to provide expert evidence and advice on the proposals put forward.

On this page, you’ll find the results from CITES CoP17.


Bad news for animals.

Lions lose at CITES CoP17.

CITES CoP17 has dealt a devastating blow to African lions, already decimated with only 20,000 left in the wild. Nine African nations (Niger, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Togo) wanted to raise protection for lions by up-listing them to Appendix I status, the maximum level of protection. The move was intended to end the lion bone trade. Instead, a compromise proposal was hammered together to appease the fierce opposition from lion bone and body part traders, and the hunting for entertainment enthusiasts.

Lions remain on CITES Appendix II, but with a “zero annual export quota for bones, bone pieces, products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth removed from the wild and traded for commercial purposes.” However, South Africa has been permitted to set its own export quota for the same body parts and products from their captive breeding operations. Of course, nobody can tell the difference between wild lion bones and captive bred lion bones, and tragically, it does not include lion skins or parts/derivatives obtained through captive breeding.

ADI is deeply disappointed and believes this move encourages opening markets in lion bone trade; countries that are not currently trading in lion bones will now want to join the trade.

The decision is in stark contrast to the recent IUCN call for an end to captive bred lion hunting operations, and the recent recognition by the countries with wild lion populations, that the increasing lion bone trade poses a serious risk to the survival of the species in the wild.

Lions desperately need Appendix I protection; canned hunting operations and commercial lion trade is not conservation, but actually fuels illicit trade. ADI strongly opposes canned hunting, trophy hunting, and all trade in live lions or their parts and derivatives. Read ADI’s briefing for African lions »

CITES denies elephants’ Appendix I protections.

Thirteen African countries proposed to up-list all African elephants to Appendix I, to ban all ivory trade, and address the species’ decimation caused by illegal and legal markets, political destabilization to African nations, and criminal impacts to local communities, including expanding criminal networks with ties to terrorist organizations. Supporters included an economist noting the devastating impact of the expanding ivory market, evidenced by simultaneously increasing supply (via poaching) and pricing. Botswana also supported the proposal, noting they “unreservedly and voluntarily relinquish” their Appendix II status and committed to another ten years on their ivory trade ban, to 2024.
The proposal required a 2/3 majority, but lost 62-71; elephants remain split, listed with Appendix II listing for Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Opposition to Appendix I listing included South Africa, Canada, China, Japan, the EU, and US, among others. US opposition was contrary to verbal assurances provided prior to the vote. The EU’s 28 votes for each member country meant its opposition was particularly devastating.
Other elephant related decisions included:

  • Overwhelming opposition to proposals from Zimbabwe and Namibia to remove annotations restricting commercial trade in elephant products;

  • Recommendations to parties to close domestic ivory markets; however, compromise language was so weakened as to undercut its purpose, and leave open the ability for continued ivory trade; and encouragingly;

  • Seven African countries (Burkina Faso, Central
    African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and
    Senegal) proposed a progressive measure to
    ban all trade in live elephants. Mali described
    being “deeply disturbed that these animals are treated as mere objects;” noting “deleterious effects have been confirmed by elephant experts; referencing the recent death of a young female elephant in transit to a US zoo; and declaring that “animals held in captivity have nothing to do with animals in the wild”; and that because “elephants live in groups, when captured their families are broken up … [it’s] comparable to what happens to human families when they are broken up.” Kenya added captivity was “lifelong incarceration” and declared it “is time we put an end to the exporting of elephants out of their home ranges.” The measure was watered down in its working group; however, the compromise adoption calls for further study and reporting to revisit the live trade in elephants and rhinoceros in subsequent CITES meetings.

ADI supported the Appendix I up-listing, and will continue to work for these necessary protections. See ADI’s briefing for African elephants »

CITES votes down protections for Cape mountain zebra.

The CITES CoP17 Committee voted in favour of South Africa’s proposal to remove Appendix I protections for the vulnerable Cape mountain zebra and down-list them to Appendix II. Proponents claim trophy hunting creates economic incentive and promotes livelihoods, but the science is clear that wildlife is worth more alive. Evidence shows the claimed financial benefits of trophy hunting to local communities are largely exaggerated, bearing little actual connection to conservation, whereas eco-tourism was found to generate substantial economic benefit in direct earnings - more than 15 times that for game “farming” and trophy hunting. Historic pay-to-slay permit schemes’ failure is evidenced by the staggering decline of numerous species over the last century, whilst sustainable, non-consumptive tourism provides local communities lasting economic benefit and incentivizes wildlife conservation.

One of the Cape mountain zebras’ biggest threats is in fact a lack of genetic diversity, which was caused by uncontrollable hunting in the 1950s. See ADI’s briefing for Cape mountain zebras here »

Committee votes to down-list the Florida panther to Appendix II status.

ADI submitted written opposition - joined by 19 other NGOs - and advocated against Canada’s proposal. The US statement during debate noted they’d heard from numerous concerned constituents regarding the “very endangered” panther, and that the CITES down-listing could risk decreased national protections. The US delegation characterized the proposal as a procedural matter related to other North American cougars (which are Appendix II listed, and internationally traded); ultimately however, the US abstained from voting, and underscored a commitment to continued “strong” national protections. Several South American countries spoke out in opposition - with especially strong argument from Costa Rica - still, the measure passed. ADI’s briefing for Florida panthers can be read here »

CITES could revoke protections for wood bison.

The CITES CoP17 Committee unanimously voted to adopt Canada’s proposal to delete wood bison (one of the two subspecies of American bison) from Appendix II. Canada argued no trade threats exist for wood bison, claiming increased populations, while noting six of nine herds yield fewer than 500 individuals, with less than 130 individuals remaining in the Alaska population. In actual fact, wood bison are being internationally traded as live specimens, scientific specimens, and sport-hunted trophies. The species has suffered a massive historic decline of 95.7% since 1800, falling from 168,000 animals to as few as 5,213 today. Reportedly, after one bison is killed, others gather around the fallen, thus enabling their decimation in large numbers. Read ADI’s briefing for wood bison »

Farewell boobook owl.

The CITES CoP17 Committee voted to adopt Australia’s proposal to down-list the Norfolk Island boobook owl to Appendix II, noting the species is functionally extinct and such down-listing is the next step in CITES procedure to remove extinct animals from review.

Geologists increasingly raise the call to declare this as the Anthropocene epoch – named in recognition of humanity’s impact upon the world. ADI underscores the need to recognize our role in sharing this planet with other species; it’s their Earth too.


News to celebrate!

Proposal to trade rhino horn rejected

CITES CoP17 overwhelmingly rejected Swaziland’s attempt to legalize trade in Southern White Rhino horn. The proposal was opposed by the EU, the US, and several range countries for African and Asian rhinos, noting enforcement difficulties in distinguishing horns between various species, and widely accepted findings that legal trade incentivizes illicit trade by increasing demand and enabling laundering, among other things. Interestingly, these arguments put forward by the EU and the US on rhinos are parallel to ivory trade enforcement issues, yet both countries voted against the elephant up-listing proposed to address just such issues. Read ADI’s briefing for the southern white rhino here »

Good news for Barbary macaques.

The committee at CITES CoP17 voted unanimously in favour of the proposal to up-list the Barbary macaque to Appendix I status. This endangered species desperately needs Appendix I protection, to stop them being torn from their families in the wild and shipped around the world for the international wildlife trade and to be used as tourist photo props. View ADI’s briefing for Barbary macaques »

Pangolins win highest protections at CITES CoP17.

Appendix I listing protections were adopted for all species of Asian and African pangolins. The Committee vote was unanimous for African pangolins, with Indonesia arising as the only party opposing the up-listing for Asian pangolins. India’s intervention noted tiger traders increasingly turn to pangolins as prices increase in illicit markets. All proponents noted the shy mammal’s low birth rates, captive breeding failures, and status as the most trafficked mammal in the world. A final plenary vote on October 4 in their favor is expected.

Upon receiving the news, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, Dan Ashe, stated “we are thrilled with this outcome.”

Poignantly, as the CITES conference took place in Johannesburg, an African pangolin on display at San Diego Zoo died. He was the only one of its kind in the US. Initially, the African pangolin had been confiscated from the illicit trade in 2007, suffering very poor health.

The African Grey Parrot wins in secret ballot.

The CITES CoP17 Committee battled over a proposal to up-list the African grey parrot, presented by Gabon, Angola, Chad, the EU, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and the US. A heated battle ensued, with South Africa, UAE, Japan, Bahrain, Norway, Cameroon, Brazil, China, and the DRC, voicing strong opposition, advocating continued trade. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director, Dan Ashe, asserted that three decades of failed efforts, including four CITES reviews, demanded up-listing protections; urged Parties to “support the wishes of a great majority of the range states”; and quoted Edward R. Murrow:

“Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.”

A motion by Kuwait, supported by twelve parties, resulted in a secret ballot (which prevents us from knowing how each party voted). The secret ballot overwhelmingly supported up-listing, and so African greys won the day!

Western tur gains CITES protections.

The Committee adopted Georgia’s and the EU’s proposal to up-list the Western tur to Appendix II status, with an amendment proposed by Canada, the US, and Guyana, to remove a proposed zero export quota. ADI supported the proposal.

The primary threats to Western tur are trophy hunting and poaching, as these vulnerable animals are sought after for their beautiful horns. The species’ demonstrable international demand, a decline of more than 50% over three generations, and low reproductive rates, support the proposal.

Peregrine falcons tentatively win in close vote.

Canada’s proposal to down-list the peregrine falcon to Appendix II was rejected in a close vote at the CITES CoP17 Committee meeting. The US voted for the down-listing; the EU voted against. IT appeared the measure would face a renewed challenge by Canada at the plenary meeting on October 4. ADI opposed the down-listing proposal.

Sri Lanka is set to host the next CITES meeting in 2019.

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