Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Wildlife on the line at CITES

Posted: 6 August 2019. Updated: 30 August 2019


Update: The CITES Conference of Parties in Geneva has come to an end, but what was achieved for animals under threat? Gains included:

  • attempts to lessen protections for southern white rhino and allow trade in their body parts rejected
  • almost all trade in live African elephants outside of their range countries prohibited
  • giraffes granted protection
  • plans to allow ivory trade and weaken elephant protections rejected
  • a Big Cat Task Force established to improve enforcement and tackle illegal trade in these species.

In other good news, Asian otters received the highest level of protection and a number of sharks including guitarfish species threatened by the shark fin trade were granted protection. Sadly South Africa was permitted to nearly double its quota of black rhino hunting trophies and a proposal to provide ALL African elephants with the greatest protection rejected.


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

The 2019 CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP18) is taking place in Geneva 17-28 August. Animal Defenders International, a member of the Species Survival Network of around 100 organisations worldwide, is supporting – and opposing – the proposals below to help protect elephants, lions, rhinos, giraffes, jaguars and great apes. See below for updates.

How you can help


African Elephants

(status: vulnerable)
The African elephant ranges across 37 sub-Saharan African range states. Populations have fallen by more than 50 per cent in the last 40 years, with poaching, habitat loss, and human conflict decimating numbers. Fewer than 350,000 savannah elephants and 100,000 forest elephants remain.

  • Proposal 10 by Zambia to down list the population of elephants in Zambia from Appendix I to Appendix II. ADI OPPOSES this proposal. Elephant numbers in the country have increased little, if at all, remaining small and continuing to meet criteria for Appendix I, the highest level of protection. Update: This proposal was rejected.
  • Proposal 11 by Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe to allow the three countries and South Africa international commercial trade in elephant parts and live animals. ADI OPPOSES this proposal. Legal ivory markets provide a cover for illegal trade and if this proposal succeeds it would severely undermine enforcement efforts and demand reduction campaigns, harming elephants. While southern Africa holds the largest elephant populations, there has been an increase in poaching in areas such as Kruger and Chobe National Parks. Update: The proposal to allow the countries to sell their ivory stockpiles was rejected. A proposal to end the international trade in live wild-caught elephants was also adopted. Ahead of the historic vote, concerned citizens and organisations around the world urged the EU and US to back the ban, after neither indicated support for the proposal. Although the US still chose not to support the ban, the EU did so subject to an amendment that the export of elephants outside their natural range be permitted if it could be shown to help conservation of wild populations. This requires the agreement of the CITES Animal Committee, and also thankfully involve consultation with the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group who have already indicated there is no conservation benefit in doing so.
  • Proposal 12 by 10 African nations to up list elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe so that ALL elephants are in Appendix I. ADI SUPPORTS this proposal. The African elephant is highly migratory with three-quarters living in populations that cross country borders. Providing some populations with less protection than others leads to confusing policy signals and enforcement issues. Update: This proposal was rejected.
  • Proposal 13 by Israel to list the Woolly mammoth in Appendix II. ADI SUPPORTS this proposal. Although the species is extinct, this aims to prevent the “laundering” or mislabelling of elephant ivory as mammoth ivory. Russia is a major legal exporter of tusks of this long extinct species, with imports into Hong Kong rising nearly fourfold since 2000. Such legal markets are known to provide a cover for illegal trade of elephant ivory. Update: This proposal was withdrawn.



(status: vulnerable)

  • Proposal 5 by 6 African nations - list giraffe on Appendix II. ADI SUPPORTS this proposal. Found in 21 African countries, giraffes have suffered an ongoing decline in their population, and of 36-40% over three generations as a result of habitat loss and exploitation. There is also significant international trade in giraffe body parts, hunting trophies and meat. Update: This proposal adopted. Although some trade will still be permitted, it is the first time the species has been given ANY safeguards against human use.

Great apes

(status: five species critically endangered, two endangered)

  • Document 73 by the CITES Secretariat to amend a resolution to include measures on conservation of and trade in great apes. ADI SUPPORTS this proposal. Great ape species span Africa and South East Asia and include chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans. In a trade estimated to be worth as much as US$10 million, thousands of great apes are killed each year to meet demand for pets, attractions, bushmeat and ceremonial body parts. The illegal trade can be more effectively combated through the closure of information gaps; increasing the legal consequences for traders and consumers; and focusing more resources to investigate finances from the illegal trade.


(status: near threatened)

  • Document 77.1 by Costa Rica and Mexico for jaguar protection, including assessment of illegal trade and development of recommendations to tackle. AND Document 77.2 by Peru on conservation and control in the trade of jaguars. ADI SUPPORTS these proposals. Ranging across 18 countries in Latin America, a recent rise in illegal trafficking and habitat pressure is a threat to the medium-term survival of the jaguar. The growing international demand for their canines and other body parts is also emerging as a substitute for tiger parts in the Asian market, increasing their vulnerability. Update A Big Cat Task Force was established to improve enforcement and tackle illegal trade.



(status: vulnerable)

  • Document 76.2 by Nigeria and Togo – actions on public awareness, reviewing trade policy, cooperation of law enforcement agencies, investigating risks of captive-bred lion industry to wild populations. ADI SUPPORTS this proposal. In recent decades, lions have become extinct in 12 sub-Saharan countries, and it is estimated that as few as 20,000 lions could remain in Africa. Occupying just 8% of their historic range, lion populations have declined in all but four southern African countries by an average of around 60% with the species classified as Critically Endangered in West Africa. Update A Big Cat Task Force was established to improve enforcement and tackle illegal trade.


(status: White rhino near threatened, black rhino critically endangered)

  • Proposal 8 by Eswatini (Swaziland) to remove the existing annotation for their population of southern white rhino on Appendix II and allow legal trade in horn and derivatives. ADI OPPOSES this proposal. Resident in 7 African countries, Eswatini’s population of southern white rhino is extremely small and continues to meet the criteria for Appendix I. Update: This proposal was rejected!
  • Proposal 9 by Namibia - down list the population of southern white rhino of Namibia from Appendix I to Appendix II. ADI OPPOSES this proposal. Namibia’s white rhino population remains small at around 1,000 individuals. Separated into around 70 sub-populations, the species continues to meet the criteria for Appendix I. Update: This proposal was rejected!
  • Document 48 by South Africa - increase their export quota for black rhinos hunting trophies. ADI OPPOSES this proposal. The critically endangered Black Rhino lives in 5 African countries estimated total population of 5,250 individuals. Of the three subspecies found in South Africa, which remains in a poaching crisis, one is declining annually and the other two have very small populations of just 254 and 79 individuals each. Update: In a terrible blow for rhinos, South Africa will be able to almost double its export quota of black rhino hunting trophies, the country claiming the money from the body parts will support conservation. This deadly trade risks the very survival of the species, opening up new markets and fuelling the illegal trade.

© Animal Defenders International 2019