Protection of African elephant agreed at CITES conference

Attempts to 'downlist' protection for two species of whale and the hawksbill turtle failed at a recent international meeting on trade in endangered species. Another success was a compromise on protection for the African elephant.

Most delegates and NGOs declared the 11th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES-11) a resounding success (see related story), citing adoption of the compromise proposed by Cameroon on African elephants. The compromise means that trade in ivory will remain prohibited until CITES-12 and that elephant populations in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa will remain listed in Appendix II of CITES’ list of endangered species.

Several African countries had sought legalising limited trade in ivory, but withdrew their proposals in the face of arguments that monitoring systems are not in place to manage the trade.

More controversial were the decisions not to downlist grey and minke whales in several geographic regions from CITES Appendix I to Appendix II. Japan and Norway submitted various proposals to downlist, arguing that sustainable trade using DNA tracing would not threaten the future of either species.

Greenpeace International praised delegates for voting against the downlistings proposals, saying that downlisting would have meant a return to commercial whaling.

Cuba presented a proposal to downlist protection of the hawksbill turtle, but was unsuccessful.

Other species which will receive added protection following agreements reached at CITES-11 include:

  • tiger
  • bear
  • sturgeon
  • Tibetan antelope
  • musk deer

Although the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) expressed its approval of many CITES-11 decisions, it criticised the meeting’s failure to increase protection for sharks. “Whale, great white and basking sharks are all highly vulnerable species,” said Ginette Hemley, vice-president for species conservation at WWF-US. “CITES has left sharks unprotected by the international community.”

Daily coverage of the CITES-11 conference, held in Nairobi from 10-20 April, was produced by Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

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