Africa – CITES Conservation Conference


The world’s largest wildlife convention leads to important new provisions for endangered species.

On October 4th the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the world’s largest wildlife meeting, ended after two weeks of talks in Johannesburg, South Africa, in which there was progress in implementing rules on trafficking of endangered species.

During the event around 2,500 delegates made their way through 62 proposals to reform restrictions on the trade of 400 species – 51 were accepted, five rejected and six withdrawn.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that governments had united behind “tough decisions,” while the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said, “conservation trumped commerce.”

Particular animals discussed included the African grey parrot and African elephants, which saw fierce debate at the convention. All trade of the pangolin – the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal – was also banned. Additionally a bid by Swaziland to be permitted to trade rhino horn was defeated.


Pangolin – the world’s most trafficked animal – CC

Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe argued against the proposals, claiming that the export of ivory would actually protect elephants in the long run and was necessary to raise money for conservation. Stephen Mwansa, permanent secretary in Zambia’s Tourism Ministry, said, “How do you come and start regulating the domestic market? That will be extra-territorial…That’s arrogance of the highest order. It’s tantamount to neo-colonialism and that we can’t accept it.”

“African elephants are in steep decline across much of the continent due to poaching for their ivory, and opening up any legal trade in ivory would complicate efforts to conserve them,” said Ginette Hemley, the head of the CITES delegation for WWF.

Elephant populations have drastically declined in east and central Africa, with Tanzania estimated to have lost around 60% of its population in the past decade. The number of African elephants has dropped by around 111,000 in the past decade. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published its ‘African Elephant Status Report‘ during the conference.

Illegal trade in wildlife is valued at around US$20bn a year, according to CITES. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) estimates that between 2.1m and 3.2m African grey parrots were captured between 1975 and 2013.

The negotiations at times exposed bitter divisions, with African nations at one point accusing Western charities of “dictating” how to protect their elephants. However, despite some tensions, the conference produced a number of positive outcomes and provisions to protect some of the world’s most endangered species.

(© AFP 25, 28/9, 4, 5/10 2016; Reuters 3, 4/10)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 3, Pp. 20948A–20948B

Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 10, Pp.20767A–20767C

CONSERVATION: Central Africa
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp. 20624A–20624C

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