Wildlife & Biodiversity

Experts warn of 'do or die' situation for many animals ahead of CITES meet

Support has been expressed for the greater protection of Sunda pangolin, Chinese pangolin, thresher and silky sharks

By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Tuesday 20 September 2016 | 05:40:13 AM

Pangolins are the most trafficked wild mammal, with all eight species threatened with extinction due to poaching mainly for their scales used in traditional medicine
Credit: Wildlife Alliance/Flickr

Humane Society International (HSI) wildlife experts warn that decisions taken at the CITES international wildlife trade meeting can be “do or die” for some of the world’s most iconic and threatened species such as the African elephant, rhinoceros and pangolin. HSI is a global body that addresses illegal trade in wildlife among other issues.

India is one of the oldest parties to have signed the CITES convention. For CITES CoP 17, the Government of India has submitted a proposal for the up listing of Indian pangolins to Appendix 1 of CITES. It has also co-proposed the inclusion of nautilus species in Appendix 2, along with Fiji and USA.

Support has been expressed for the greater protection of Sunda pangolin, Chinese pangolin, thresher and silky sharks. The Chinese and Indian pangolins as well as nautilus are listed on India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, but populations of all these animals are threatened.

Teresa Telecky, director of the HSI’s wildlife department and leader of the organization’s delegation at the upcoming CITES CoP17 in Johannesburg, said, “With so many of our wild animal and plant species facing serious threats from rapacious poaching and commercial trade, this CITES meeting represents a “do or die” moment for iconic animals such as elephants, rhinos, lions, and pangolins.

The meeting will run from September 24 to October 5, 2016. Key proposals to be discussed include:

  • Increased protection for African elephants: despite the major poaching crisis facing African elephants, Zimbabwe and Namibia are proposing to legalise their ivory trade while others are seeking approval for a mechanism to trade ivory in future. Their proposals are opposed by the 29-country-strong African Elephant Coalition, representing 70 per cent of African elephant range states, which is advocating a return to full Appendix I protection for all African elephant populations, closure of domestic ivory markets and an end to any discussion on re-opening ivory trade in future
  • Swaziland’s proposal to legalise international rhino horn trade (from its southern white rhinos): only about 25,600 rhinos of five species exist today, and all rhino species, are threatened by poaching. HSI hopes to see this proposal defeated, as it could undermine worldwide efforts to eliminate demand for rhino horn
  • Increased protection for African lions by transferring them from Appendix 2 to Appendix 1: there may be as few as 20,000 wild lions left in Africa. International trade in lion parts, particularly lion bones, is growing, incentivising the poaching of tigers and other big cat species. HSI supports this proposal, but a number of countries, including the European Union bloc, currently oppose it as written
  • Transfer of all eight species of pangolins from Appendix 2 to Appendix 1: pangolins are the most trafficked wild mammal, with all eight species threatened with extinction due to poaching mainly for their scales used in traditional medicine. China, the main consumer of pangolin, is expected to oppose the proposal
  • Listing the silky shark, thresher sharks and devil rays on CITES Appendix 2: silky and thresher sharks are threatened by commercial trade in their fins, used in shark fin soup in Asia, and devil rays by trade in their gill plates, used in health tonics in Asia
  • Listing chambered nautiluses on CITES Appendix 2: these unusual marine invertebrates are being overfished for their beautiful shells for decorative purposes
  • Providing increased international protection for the helmeted hornbill: Poaching for the “ivory” in its bill is threatening to wipe out Asia’s largest hornbill, already listed on Appendix 1

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