The just ended summit of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES) adopted ground breaking decisions on regulating legal, sustainable and traceable trade in wildlife marking a major shift towards stronger protection for wild animals and plants from over exploitation and illegal trade.
Speaking at the closing of the two weeks summit held in Johannesburg , CITES Secretary General John Scanlon described the 17th meeting of the conference of the parties COP17 as a game changer that will be remembered as a point in history when the tide turned in favor of ensuring the survival of our most vulnerable wildlife
“The most critical meeting in the 43 year history of CITES has been delivered for the world’s wildlife.COP17 was a game changer for the planet’s most vulnerable wild animals and plants.
“Notable successes from this meeting include decisions to bring marine and timber species under CITES trade controls, continuing a trend from COP16 where countries turned to CITES to assist them along the path to sustainability in oceans and forests,” Scanlon said in a statement.
It was not just the well-known species such as the elephant, rhino and lion that were on the agenda, the pangolin, cape mountain zebra, natal ginger and many lesser known plant and animal species also came under the spotlight.
Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme said the CITES conference saw a strong desire from countries to ensure they mount a defense for plants and animals, big and small.
According to CITES officials COP17 was the largest ever meeting of its kind with 152 governments taking decisions on 62 species listing proposals submitted by 64 countries.
Parties also recognized several conservation success stories including that of the cape mountain zebra, several species of crocodiles and the wood bison, which were all by consensus down-listed from appendix CITES to appendix II in recognition of their improved conservation status.
Multiple new animals and plants were also added to CITES appendices for the first time and hence will come under CITES trade controls.
These decisions affect a large number of mammals, marine and timber species as well as many reptiles and amphibians and include more than 350 species of rosewood, devil rays, silky sharks and thresher sharks.