CITES: Preserving our wildlife heritage

Rhinos in the wild

September is a big month in the world of conservation and wildlife preservation. Delegates from 182 countries will meet in Johannesburg for the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP17).

Albi Modise, Chief Director: Communications of the Department of Environmental Affairs, says: “The international wildlife trade conference is being hosted by South Africa to, amongst other matters, make recommendations to improve the effectiveness of CITES, and ensure that the international trade in listed species of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild.”

CITES CoP17 is a platform to discuss not only the threats faced by our wildlife (rhino, African elephant, and African lion and iconic species on the African continent), but also matters relating to livelihoods, effective implementation of the Convention, and proposals to bring species under international trade regulation provided by CITES or change the levels of regulation applicable to listed species.

Lioness and cubs iStock

“CITES CoP17 affords South Africa the opportunity to showcase our rich biodiversity and successful conservation and sustainable use management practices,” says Modise. “In addition, South Africa will demonstrate its commitment to the sustainable utilisation of its natural resources in contributing to socio-economic development of poor and rural communities as part of the development agenda of government.”

A total of 115 documents will be considered during the two-week Conference. Among these are 60 proposals to amend the lists of species subject to CITES trade controls. South Africa has tabled proposals to down-list the once critically endangered Cape Mountain Zebra from Appendix I to Appendix II, the listing of Wild Ginger on Appendix II and the up-listing of Pangolin to Appendix I.


“Of the over 35 000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives regulated by CITES, less than 1 000 are listed on Appendix I. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction and trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances,” Modise says. “More than 34 000 species are listed on Appendix II and III. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be regulated in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival; while Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade.”

Three working documents (draft Resolutions) were tabled by South Africa for consideration by the 17th CoP to CITES:

  • A draft Resolution on Illegal Wildlife Trade that highlights the need for international cooperation; the sharing of best practices; the need to enhance enforcement resources; the mobilisation of funds for sustainable interventions in order to combat illegal wildlife trade in CITES listed species, while emphasising the important role played by local communities.
  • A draft Resolution on trade in hunting trophies of Appendix II listed species that emphasise the important socio-economic impact of hunting, in addition to the contribution it makes to conservation; and
  • A proposed amendment to the Resolution on Trade in elephant specimens to provide for a decision-making mechanism for a process to trade in ivory.

For full details on the agenda and topics under discussion at CITES, visit their website.

CITES takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre from 24 September to 5 October 2016. For details on all matters related to the event visit the CITES website.

Source: Department of Environmental Affairs

Sandton Convention Centre. Image supplied by SA Tourism

Sandton Convention Centre. Image supplied by SA Tourism

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