ZSL will be at the 17th CITES CoP. Find out how we are working to support wildlife at this important global conservation event.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, is a global agreement between governments to control international trade in threatened species.
It was first signed by 21 countries in 1973 in response to increasing recognition that international trade was having significant impacts on some wild animals and plants. It is the only legally binding international agreement supporting species conservation.
Over 40 years later, CITES has proven to be a key tool supporting international conservation. There are now 183 member countries (known within CITES as Parties) with over 35,000 species listed and regulated. Species are listed on three categories with different levels of protection:
Appendix I: The most endangered plants and animals, such as tigers and gorillas. All trade in these species is banned, except in rare cases such as scientific research.
Appendix II: This contains species like lions and many corals that are not yet threatened with extinction but which could become threatened if unregulated trade were allowed. Also included are what are referred to as “look-alike” species that have similar physical characteristics to species on the protected list and may make enforcement challenging. Plants and animals in this category can be traded internationally under strict rules.
Appendix III: Species whose trade is only regulated within a given country can be placed on Appendix III at a countries request if that country requires cooperation from others to help prevent illegal trade.
The operations of the Convention are supported and monitored by the CITES Secretariat, based in Geneva who also assist Parties in complying with their obligations under the convention.
Every three years Parties come together, at the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP), to decide on species protection listing and vote on resolutions and decisions that affect any aspect of trade in endangered species.
Over the years CITES has expanded its role to address wider matters linked to illegal wildlife trade issues. CITES brings together law enforcement officers from wildlife departments, parks authorities, enforcement agencies such as customs and police to combat illegal wildlife trade.
Organisations like ZSL also play a role as observers; providing technical advice to Parties and the CITES Secretariat and helping shape policies and decisions.
ZSL will be pushing for measures that; take an evidence based approach to decision making; strengthen protection for species adversely affected by trade; reinforcing capacity for effective implementation of the Convention; and supporting proposals that address wildlife crime and its impacts on people and wildlife.
Key outcomes that ZSL will be working for at the CoP:
Improved protection for all eight pangolin species, through listing in Appendix I
Closure of domestic ivory markets and a continuation of the ban of international ivory trade
Improved protection for threatened species including; the African Grey parrot and Bangaii cardinal fish
Improved protection for the silky shark, thresher sharks and mobula rays
Effective measures to reduce the impact of illegal trade on cheetahs
Measures to better understand the impact of trade on anguillid eels
A better framework for demand reduction programmes
Download a summary of ZSL recommendations for CITES COP
The 17th CITES CoP (Conference of the Parties) in Johannesburg will have a major focus on elephants and ivory.
It represents an opportunity for Parties to address the critical issues of (1) reducing the illegal killing of elephants, (2) increasing efforts to combat ivory trafficking and (3) reducing the demand for ivory that is driving this trade.
ZSL will be working to encourage Parties to support initiatives at CITES that put in place robust measures that will help conserve African elephants.
Conservation status and protection:
The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is facing a poaching crisis driven by a demand for ivory and ivory products. Illegal killing began to escalate in the mid-2000s, peaking at an estimated 35,000-40,000 individuals killed in 2011 and, although the latest MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) report shows that these levels have declined slightly, they still remain high (1,2).
The recently released Great Elephant Census estimates a decline of around 30% in the savannah elephant populations in 15 of the 18 sub-Saharan African states surveyed – equivalent to almost 150,000 elephants – over the period 2007-20154. For the forest elephant populations of Central Africa the situation is particularly grave, with the population of the subspecies across the region estimated to have declined by 62% over the period 2000-2010 (3).
While in other parts of its range some elephant populations have stabilised or increased, overall the evidence supports ZSL’s experience through its field programmes in West, Central and East Africa that ongoing pressure from illegal killing continues to be a major threat to elephants across many former strongholds for the species.
In 1989, in response to a poaching crisis in the preceding decade, CITES listed all African elephant populations on Appendix I. Populations in Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe were transferred to Appendix II in 1997, followed by South Africa in 2000.
ZSL positions at CITES CoP17:
ZSL bases its recommendations to Parties at CoP17 on a recognition of: - the current poaching crisis and ongoing demand for ivory; - the challenges posed by corruption, low levels of enforcement and institutional capacity along the ivory supply chain; - evidence of leakage of illegally-sourced ivory into legal trade; - absence of evidence that regulated trade could meet market demand and reduce poaching pressures on wild populations.
As a consequence ZSL:
opposes any resumption of international trade in ivory;
supports the closure of all domestic markets for ivory;
supports initiatives to reduce demand for and consumption of ivory and ivory products;
supports efforts to strengthen Parties’ capacity to implement or enhance in-situ protection of elephants, law enforcement, closure of domestic ivory markets and combat trafficking e.g. enhancing the National Ivory Action Plan framework and implementing the African Elephant Action Plan and the Elephant Protection Initiative;
supports strengthened compliance mechanisms for Parties not complying with CITES obligations.
CoP17 Props 14 and 15 [Namibia, Namibia and Zimbabwe] Alter the listings of the Namibian and Zimbabwean populations of African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) in Appendix II by deleting any reference to Namibia in that Annotation and removing the annotation related to Zimbabwe.
Removing these annotations would enable a resumption of international trade, as per standard Appendix II conditions.
ZSL encourages Parties to oppose proposals 14 and 15.
CoP17 Prop. 16 [Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Uganda] Inclusion of all populations of African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) in Appendix I through the transfer from Appendix II to Appendix I of the populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
None of these populations meet the biological requirements for transfer to Appendix I detailed in Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP16). ZSL does not believe that transferring these populations to Appendix I will reduce pressure from illegal killing across the species range.
ZSL encourages Parties to oppose proposal 16 and focus efforts on other initiatives at the CoP that can have a more significant positive impact for elephant conservation.
CoP Doc.18.1 [The United States of America] Demand reduction strategies to combat illegal trade in CITES-listed species and CoP Doc. 18.2 [Gabon, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo] Development of CITES demand-reduction guidelines.
Demand for ivory underlies the current poaching crisis and without addressing this all other efforts to combat elephant poaching and ivory trafficking are likely to fail. Encouraging demand reduction initiatives is therefore paramount. ZSL strongly supports adopting an evidence-based approach to demand reduction, grounded in a behaviour change model that incorporates monitoring and evaluation.
ZSL encourages Parties to support documents, the draft resolution in 18.1 and draft decisions in 18.2.
CoP Doc. 24 [Secretariat] National Ivory Action Plans process and CoP Doc. 57.1 [Secretariat] Implementation of Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16) on Trade in elephant specimens
ZSL strongly supports the CITES National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) process and has had the opportunity to support Parties in developing and implementing their NIAPs. Putting in place measures that strengthen the development, implementation and evaluation of NIAPs should be a priority for Parties at CoP17.
ZSL encourages Parties to support reinforcement of the NIAP process.
CoP Doc 57.2 [Angola, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Senegal] Closure of domestic markets for elephant ivory.
Legal domestic ivory markets provide a route for illegally sourced ivory to be laundered and enter the market as ‘legal’5. In addition, research indicates that the supply of ivory from wild elephant populations will not be sufficient to meet current let alone likely increased demand. In the current poaching crisis with ongoing demand for ivory and continued illicit trade, closure of domestic ivory markets is therefore essential. Closure of domestic ivory markets globally has widespread support amongst African range states, has been the subject of a recent IUCN Resolution and a number of countries have already made commitments in this direction.
ZSL strongly encourages Parties to support this initiative and incorporate the suggested changes to Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16).
CoP Doc 57.3 [Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal] Ivory stockpiles: proposed revision of Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16) on Trade in elephant specimens
ZSL supports securing ivory stockpiles and putting them beyond economic use as a key tool to support law enforcement. Destruction of stockpiles is one method to ensure ivory is put beyond economic use and does not find its way into illegal trade but should not be done without full compliance with other CITES requirements or be done in the absence of effective plans for ongoing management.
ZSL strongly encourages Parties to support this initiative and incorporate the suggested changes to Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16).
CoP 17 Doc.84.1 [SC], 84.2 [Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger and Senegal] and 84.3 [Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe] Decision-making mechanism for a process of trade in ivory
ZSL notes that little progress has been made in agreeing a ‘Decision-making mechanism (DMM) for a process of trade in ivory’ over the 9 years since Decision 14.77 was adopted in 2007 (Decision 16.55). ZSL considers that the context in which this was adopted has changed dramatically and that given the current poaching crisis, ongoing trafficking and demand for ivory and ivory products, it would not be appropriate for Parties to pursue the DMM. On this basis, ZSL recommends that Parties focus their efforts at CoP17 instead on other topics that seek to address the current poaching and trafficking threats to elephants and reducing demand for ivory.
ZSL encourages Parties to support Recommendation 84.3 and end the mandate of Decision 16.55.
2. Wittemyer, G., Northrup, J.M., Blanc, J., Douglas-Hamilton, I., Omondi, P. and Burnham, K.P., 2014. Illegal killing for ivory drives global decline in African elephants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(36), pp.13117-13121.
The downfall of a booming wildlife trade is crucial to the success of the African grey parrot, whose numbers are dwindling in the wild. In a new move to safeguard the species wildlife experts will present new proposals for their increased legal protection across the globe.
The African grey parrot is among the most traded bird species in the world, particularly in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. Its popularity is partly due to its impressive ability to mimic sounds including human speech and these talents have become their downfall, as the global demand for owning this bird as a pet has decimated the wild populations across its range.
Historically found across the rainforests of West and Central Africa, severe population declines have been seen in 20 of the 22 range states in which it formerly occurs including Cameroon, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ghana has seen a decline of between 95-99% of its population over the past 30 years and similar situation is ongoing in many other range states where it is now very rare or even extinct (Clemmons 2003, da Costa Lopes 2015, Martin et al. 2014, CITES 2014).
In less than two decades, almost 750,000 wild-caught African grey and Timneh parrots have been traded internationally (UNEP-WCMC 2013), African greys making up the vast majority of these. In the late 1990’s exports from Cameroon accounted for 48% of the trade (Waugh 2010), and with some estimates suggesting up to 90% of trapped birds died even before reaching the export point of Douala airport, up to 100,000 birds per year wear being captured in Cameroon, with the likely regional total of wild-caught parrots hitting over 1 million (Birdlife International 2013).
Parrot trapping often involves putting glue on branches
Tragically, the African grey is highly susceptible to trapping due to its sociable nature, regularly returning to the same roosting, drinking and mineral lick sites. Trapping, often occurs at roosts in palms along riverbanks and forest clearings often within protected areas. In 2016 ZSL, supported the Cameroonian wildlife department to destroy specialised parrot traps built around forest clearings within the UNESCO Dja Biosphere Reserve. Traps were made of branches smeared with glue in order to trap visiting wild parrots, attracted by the calls of previously-caught parrots.
At CITES Parties will be discussing increased protection and trade restrictions on African Grey Parrots proposed by seven African range states including Angola, Chad, Gabon, Guina, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo, alongside the E.U.
Only two range states have current published export quotas (DRC and Cameroon). However, there been reports of widespread use of fraudulent permits and quantities reported by importers have regularly exceeded export quotas and the number of export permits issued by range States. In 2015 following assessment of trade in the DRC the Standing Committee recommending a trade suspension from the country and similar concerns exist for Cameroon
Destroying an illegal parrot hide
Given the impact the live trade is having on the wild parrot population, and in order to address and reverse the population declines, it is essential that Parties at the CoP apply full trade restrictions and that robust monitoring of wild populations is implemented.
Captive breeding is ongoing in zoos, on a commercial and private basis in Europe and elsewhere, and these efforts should be expanded in order to both meet demands and assist with re-introduction and supplementation efforts for conservation purposes. Captive-bred and reared birds are of a better temperament than wild-caught birds, more easily kept as pets, and they also do not pose the health risks associated with moving wild-caught birds across the globe.
Over harvesting resulting from poor regulation, poor management and corruption have all resulted in the decline of the African Grey Parrot, further compounded by habitat loss. ZSL recommends that Parties address this by supporting Proposal 19 and the seven African countries looking to protect this iconic species.
(Proposal 19): Transfer from Appendix II to Appendix I of Psittacus erithacus in accordance with Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP16), Annex 1.
Paragraph C) i): A marked decline in the population size in the wild, which has been observed as ongoing.
Paragraph C) ii): A marked decline in the population size in the wild, which has been inferred or projected on the basis of a level or pattern of exploitation and a decrease in quality of habitat and a decrease in area of habitat because of high levels of deforestation in certain areas.
Eel species are being challenged by a range of pressures, including habitat loss, barriers to migration and exploitation, with conservation hampered by incomplete knowledge of their remarkable life-histories.
There is growing concern relating to the recruitment, population and escapement of the 16 species of catadromous eels of the family Anguillidae. Anguillids breed in the ocean and feed and grow in continental coastal and freshwater bodies, and as such they link both marine and inland waters and can act valuable indicator and integrator of the well-being of aquatic ecosystems. However, incomplete knowledge of their remarkable life-histories hampers stock assessment, management and conservation.
These species are exposed to a suite of pressures that include habitat loss/modification, migration barriers, pollution, parasitism, exploitation, and fluctuating oceanic conditions that likely have cumulative, synergistic and/or regionally variable impacts, even within species.
Of the 13 species assessed using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria, four were listed as ‘Threatened’ (Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered); four were Near Threatened, three were Data Deficient and two were deemed Least Concern. The northern temperate species of the Endangered Japanese and American eels and the Critically Endangered European eel have shown marked declines in recruitment, population and escapement over the past 30-40 years. Equally concerning is our poor understanding of the tropical species – primarily listed as Near Threatened or Data Deficient – some of which, in addition to existing threats, are beginning to be exploited, both legally and illegally, in increasing numbers due to the decline in temperate species.
The European eel is arguably the species of greatest concern at present due to the Critically Endangered listing, and a number of measures have been implemented to improve management and conservation over the past 10 years. European Union legislation (EU Regulation 1100/2007 ) was developed in 2007 to ensure all member states had created Eel Management Plans to address these declines.
In addition to the Regulation, the species was listed in Appendix II of CITES in 2007 due to concerns over the impact international trade was having on European eel stocks. This was in an attempt to ensure that all trade in the species was sustainable. The listing came into effect in March 2009, however, in December 2010 the EU banned all imports and exports of live and processed European eel as it was not felt they could assure that trade would not be detrimental to the species. Since this time, the EU has taken steps to put measures into place to assess the impact of trade on the European eel, most recently through a workshop to define criteria for determining an NDF European eels . Additionally, the species has also been listed in Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and co-operative actions on all threats, including unsustainable and illegal fisheries are being explored.
Despite the EU export ban, there is a still a demand for European eel in key import and consumer markets in East Asia. Some of the demand has been met through the opening and/or expansion of non-EU European eel markets in North Africa and through increased exploitation and export of other species, particularly A. rostrata and A. bicolor, however, there is concern that a significant black market for A. anguilla exists. Indeed, there is concern relating to illegal exploitation and trade in all species of anguillids, and as most trade relates to juvenile glass eels, species identification is hugely problematic. Seizures of illegally exported European eels do occur but they are believed to be intercepting only a small proportion of the illegal trade.
More broadly, there are fundamental issues relating to the collection of fisheries data and it has been repeatedly stated, for the European eel, that it is often incomplete and/or of variable quality, and this is true of most other anguillid fisheries, and the associated trade. There have been calls for the development of standards to improve data quality and coverage and management of legal fisheries more generally and exploring these options would be hugely valuable. Improved compliance and enforcement of national and international legislation would strengthen this management. Additionally, chains of custody are often extended and complex and multi-national which can complicate traceability, and measures to improve transparency of these would be hugely valuable.
Ultimately, the understanding of the biology and population dynamics of these species remains poor, and this especially applies to the tropical species.
AS SUCH ZSL STRONGLY SUPPORTS CoP17 DOCUMENT 51 SUBMITTED BY THE EU TO:
…allow for more information and data to be gathered on population abundance and exploitation, and to facilitate the development of recommendations on the sustainable trade of all Anguilla species...
Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are the most trafficked wild mammals on the planet. More than a million are estimated to have been snatched from the wild in the past decade – for their meat and body parts – and populations of all eight species are estimated to be declining as a result.
In the lead up to the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP 17), wildlife experts have proposed a suite of actions to safeguard pangolins from extinction.
CITES CoP17 represents an opportunity for Parties to address the critical issues of reducing the illegal killing of pangolins, increasing efforts to combat pangolin trafficking and reducing demand for pangolin meat and scales that is driving this trade.
ZSL will be working to encourage Parties to support initiatives at CITES that put in place robust measures that will help conserve pangolins in Asia and Africa.
Threats to pangolins
Pangolins (Order Pholidota) are the world’s only scaly mammals. Eight species of pangolin are currently recognised; four occur in South, East and Southeast Asia, and four are native to sub-Saharan Africa.
Pangolins have been regarded as an important source of wild meat throughout history in almost every country in which they occur. Their scales and other body parts are widely used in traditional medicines where they are believed to perform a variety of functions, from warding away evil spirits to treating skin diseases.
Today, pangolins are increasingly threatened by international trade in their meat and scales, much of which is destined to China and Vietnam where they are eaten as a luxury dish and used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Pangolins are illegally traded for their scales and meat
Pangolins and CITES
Pangolins are protected in most countries in which they occur and have been listed on Appendix II of CITES since 1995, which means trade is regulated in order to avoid overexploitation. However, despite these protective measures, trade in the Asian pangolins (particularly the Chinese and Sunda pangolins) has led to severe population declines.
In 2000, Parties to CITES established a zero export quota for wild-caught Asian pangolins traded for primarily commercial purposes, effectively enacting a proxy trade ban for the Asian pangolin species. Since this time trade has continued, the majority of it now illegal.
This year, five separate proposals (CoP17 Prop. 8-12) have been submitted to list pangolins on Appendix I of CITES, which would mean that trade in pangolins and their parts is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. If successful, the uplisting should lead to strengthened national legislation, make law enforcement easier and bring increased attention to the species.
In addition, draft Resolution and Decisions (CoP17 Doc 64) have been submitted concerning priority actions to address illegal trade in pangolins and reporting on the status, trade and conservation of pangolins.
CoP17 Prop. 8 [Bangladesh] and CoP17 Prop 9 [India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and United States of America] Transfer of Indian Pangolin Manis crassicaudata from Appendix II to Appendix I
ZSL recommendation: Support The Indian pangolin has been assessed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List on the basis of suspected population declines of at least 50 per cent over the past two decades. Researcher report that populations of the species have declined in India and in parts of Pakistan, and it is believed to have disappeared from parts of its range in Bangladesh. The estimated population decline qualifies the species for inclusion in Appendix I in accordance with Annex I of CITES Res. Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP16).
CoP17 Prop. 10 [Philippines and United States of America] Transfer of Philippine Pangolin Manis culionensis from Appendix II to Appendix I
ZSL recommendation: Support The Philippine pangolin has been assessed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List on the basis of suspected population declines of at least 50 per cent over a period of two decades. Although there is a lack of population data on the species, local hunters report that increased effort is now needed to catch pangolins, potentially as a consequence of declining populations. The estimated population decline qualifies the species for inclusion in Appendix I.
CoP17 Prop. 11 [Viet Nam, Bhutan and United States of America] Transfer of Sunda Pangolin Manis javanica and Chinese Pangolin M. pentadactyla from Appendix II to Appendix I
ZSL recommendation: Support The Chinese and Sunda pangolins are listed as Critically Endangered, on the basis of estimated past, ongoing and predicted population declines of 90 per cent and 80 per cent respectively over a 21 year period. Population declines are driven primarily by overexploitation for illicit international trade, which is fuelled by demand for pangolin meat and other body parts. These population declines qualify both species for inclusion in Appendix I.
CoP17 Prop. 12 [Angola, Botswana, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and United States of America] Transfer of African pangolin species Manis tetradactyla, M. tricuspis, M. gigantea and M. temminckii from Appendix II to Appendix I
ZSL recommendation: Support Detailed population data on the four African pangolin species (all listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List) are scarce, resulting in insufficient information to determine if these species meet the biological criteria for inclusion in Appendix I. However, the volume of African pangolins being trafficked to Asia appears to have substantially increased in recent years. Between 2013 and 2016, scales from more than 16,000 African pangolins were seized in East Asia, a significant increase on previous years. Anecdotal evidence from Central and West Africa, in particular, indicates pangolins are being increasingly sought after, prices being paid for their meat and scales are increasing, and populations are declining as a result. Due to the increasing threats to African pangolins, and the difficulty in distinguishing between scales of African and Asian pangolins, ZSL recommends applying the precautionary principle and including all African pangolins in Appendix I.
CoP17 Doc 64 Draft Resolution and Decision concerning priority actions to address illegal trade in pangolins and reporting on the status, trade and conservation of pangolins The draft Resolution urges Parties, governments, intergovernmental organizations, international aid agencies and non-governmental organizations to implement and/or support a suite of actions to combat the illegal trade in pangolins and pangolin products. The draft Decision requests that the Secretariat: i) liaise with relevant enforcement networks to convey concerns expressed about the illegal trade in pangolins, including parts and derivatives; and ii) subject to external funding, produce a report on status, trade and conservation of pangolins in co-operation with relevant organisations, and in consultation with range and implicated States.
ZSL recommendation: Support As a member of the CITES inter-sessional working group on pangolins, ZSL contributed to the development of the draft Resolution and Decision, and fully supports the recommended actions.