Elephant, big cat conservation reviewed at CITES meeting

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Elephant, big cat conservation reviewed at CITES meeting
New Delhi:  Trade in precious timber and sharks and conservation of elephants, big cats, parrots, eels, marine turtles and totoaba were among the many critical matters reviewed during the 77th Meeting of the Standing Committee (SC77) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Geneva.

Convened nearly a year after the Convention’s 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP19) in Panama city, the meeting gathered nearly 600 participants from 84 parties, 15 international organisations, 88 non-governmental organisations, including representatives from indigenous people, and several representatives of the private sector.

The Chair of SC77 and Head of the United States CITES Management Authority, Naimah Aziz said in her opening statement: “I hope the discussions further our common goals of conserving our biodiversity while supporting legal, traceable and biologically sustainable trade in wild plants and animals…as we demonstrate that CITES, after 50 years, is robust and effective in achieving its mission now, as it was then.”

Over the course of the five days and 77 agenda items, the committee deliberated on a range of compliance issues, which concern the requirements for parties to have a regulatory and control system in place to ensure that trade is legal, sustainable and traceable.

Existing and new compliance cases relating to the application of Article XIII of the Convention regarding unsustainable, non-compliant or illegal trade in West African rosewood, African teak, Asian elephants, birds and sharks as well as the implementation of provisions related to the trade of captive-bred specimens in Appendix I.

These cases involved interalia Cameroon, China, Bangladesh, Congo, Ecuador, the European Union, Guinea, Lao, Madagascar, Mexico, Nigeria and Britain and Northern Ireland.

Some cases involved the illegal trade of rare bird species, such as Spix’s macaw, Lear’s macaw and white-throated toucan, or illegal fishing of the totoaba further endangering the nearly extinct vaquita.

The committee also recognised the progress made by the Compliance Assistance Programme (CAP) which aims to provide targetted support to parties facing persistent compliance challenges.

On species-specific conservation and trade matters, the committee welcomed continued efforts by parties to prevent and mitigate human-wildlife conflict and the risk of pathogen spillover and transmission from wildlife trade and associated supply chains.

Kazakhstan received commendations from the committee and other parties for the remarkable results in conservation of the Saiga antelope with a significant population increase in recent years — from 21,000 individuals in 2003 to more than 1.3 million in 2022.

Enforcement matters were emphasised, with the committee stressing the importance of combating corruption and encouraging parties to integrate financial crime investigations into wildlife-related crimes.

The secretariat introduced the online platform for the CITES Illegal Trade Database, managed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The committee tasked the secretariat with preparing terms of reference for the creation of a system for monitoring illegal killing of jaguars, illegal trade in their parts and derivatives, as well as other aspects related to conservation of the jaguar.

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