Annual CITES Conference to Address Wildlife Protection Proposals

Next month, the Geneva-based Convention on Illegal Trading in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will convene in Bangkok for the organization’s annual international powwow. The CITES Conference of the Parties will be held March 3-14; during the event, member states will vote to approve or reject wildlife protection proposals submitted by various countries last fall.

For those unfamiliar with the organization, CITES classifies animal species into three distinct groups. Appendix I refers to species threatened with extinction; trade of these species is only allowable under “exceptional circumstances”. Appendix II includes species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but whose trade should still be regulated “in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival”. Appendix III refers to species that are protected in at least one country, and this country has requested assistance from CITES member states in regulating trade of these species. Each appendix classification entails various permits, import/export certificates, and other requirements.

This year, 40 nations submitted proposals requesting that certain species be added to or deleted from the appendices; proposals may also request a transfer from Appendix I to Appendix II or vice versa, while inclusion in/exclusion from Appendix III may be performed unilaterally without a proposal. Some of the most notable proposals from this year’s batch included the following:

  • Australia is proposing to delete eight species from Appendices I and II; these include the Tasmanian tiger, crescent nail-tail wallaby, pig-footed bandicoot and two species of frog.
  • Eight African nations (Benin, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea,  Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone) submitted a joint proposal requesting transfer from Appendix II to Appendix I for the West African manatee.
  • Seven nations (Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico) proposed inclusion in Appendix II for three threatened species of hammerhead shark. Brazil also took part in two other joint proposals aimed at providing additional protection for the oceanic whitetip shark and porbeagle shark.
  • Six African nations (Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Kenya, Mali, Tanzania and Togo) submitted proposals requesting amendments to existing ivory laws in those countries; as elephant populations rebound throughout Africa, more nations are exploring the possibility of a tightly regulated ivory market.
  • China and the U.S. submitted a pair of joint proposals to request inclusion in Appendix I for several subspecies of softshell and freshwater box turtles; the U.S. also filed a joint proposal with Vietnam requesting transfer from Appendix II to Appendix I for all big-headed turtles.
  • Other U.S. proposals requested additional protection for the polar bear, Burmese tortoise and four species of turtle; another proposal updated the protected status of the ginseng plant to exclude powders, pills, and other manufactured variations of the root that are sold over the counter.
  • While most of the proposals were aimed at protecting marine life, home country Switzerland elected to look out for our feathered friends. Species addressed by Swiss proposals included the imperial pheasant, Caspian snowcock and Attwater’s greater prairie chicken.
  • All in all, different proposals suggest it was a good year for the Ecuadorean vicuña, Corsican swallowtail butterfly, American crocodile and Guadalupe caracara.

The entire list of 67 proposals is available online. Keep your eyes on next month’s conference to see the results for each submitted proposal. For more information about CITES, please visit the organization’s official website.

By: Brad Nehring