The international community concluded the CITES conference in Geneva with an impressive list of trade restrictions and bans for the conservation of endangered animal and plant species. The list includes improved protection of the mako shark threatened by overfishing, giraffes and certain tropical wood types. In addition, Germany, together with a number of other countries, successfully blocked proposals to ease the international ban on trade in ivory and rhino horn.
German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze commented: “Many animal and plant species are highly endangered and need our protection - from elephants and sharks to rays and tropical wood types. One reason for this is international trade. The decisions taken in Geneva are good and important steps for species conservation. The international community has demonstrated its ability to act in this field. The international ban on trade in ivory and rhino horn remains in force. With this, we are sending another signal in the fight against poaching: no-one is allowed to make profits from the poaching and illegal trade of protected species.”
The strict international ban on trade in ivory and rhino horn remains in place. A number of countries in southern Africa wanted to partly lift the trade ban which has been in place for almost 30 years. “We must do all we can for the protection and conservation of elephants. In the fight against poaching, it is crucial that there continues to be no legal international market on which poached ivory can be laundered” emphasised Environment Minister Schulze.
The export of live elephants out of the wild and into zoos is also to be banned. The transfer of elephants into circuses is completely ruled out. There are some narrowly defined exemptions for elephants that were once wild and now already live in zoos and in exceptional situations where it can be proven that the transfer will benefit the conservation of elephants in Africa.
At the proposal of the EU, among others, protection will be improved for the mako shark, guitarfish and teatfish (sea cucumber), which are all under threat from overfishing. The shortfin mako shark in particular is classified as “critically endangered” in the Mediterranean.
In addition, trade in certain tropical wood types from African and South American dry forests, which are endangered from overuse and high demand, has been heavily restricted. In future, only sustainably obtained wood of these wood types, for instance the African cedar, may be traded internationally. This means it is only permitted to take as a much wood as can grow back. Environment Minister Svenja Schulze commented: “Humankind relies heavily on biodiversity and the positive climate impact of tropical forests. For that reason, we cannot allow any overexploitation there. Placing further tropical wood types under protection is an important cornerstone on the road towards sustainable forest management in the tropics.”
The giraffe, now endangered as a result of poaching and trade, has been listed in Appendix II to the Convention for the first time, thus enabling better control of trade in giraffes which to date has been unregulated. The parties to the Convention also launched an initiative to enhance the protection of four carnivore species: the African lion, leopard, African wild dog and cheetah.
Trade in the saiga antelope, still endangered after a case of mass mortality of the species in 2015, will remain impossible until the next Conference of the Parties to allow the population to recover. The male saiga antelope are still poached and illegally traded for their horn, coveted for use in traditional Asian medicine.
Though given less attention, reptiles and amphibians are also highly endangered. To this end, a number of additional trade restrictions and bans were adopted for these species, in particular those traded as exotic pets. Germany’s proposals to list the tiger gecko species native to China and Vietnam and newts were accepted without opposition. Listing these species makes it possible to more efficiently control the pet trade and creates incentives for sustainable breeding practices. Germany is stepping up its commitment in this area in order to meet its responsibility as a large market for endangered exotic pets.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
183 countries have acceded to the Convention. CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, entered into force on 1 July 1975. It regulates the import and export of the circa 35,000 animal and plant species currently under threat. The key instruments of the Convention are the import and export permit requirements.