Geneva, Aug. 28, 2019 -- The following statement was issued by the Wildlife Conservation Society at CITES CoP18.

Susan Lieberman, vice president of international policy for the Wildlife Conservation Society, presented these remarks in full plenary as CITES CoP18 came to conclusion:

“WCS wishes to congratulate Switzerland for its support and for the Secretariat staff for such a well-organized and successful CoP and for all their hard work behind the scenes, and for the great work of the Chairs of Committees I and I.

“Thank you to the translators for doing such a wonderful job as well. Most significantly, we congratulate YOU, the Parties to CITES, for such a successful CoP. WCS is a science-based organization, with marine and terrestrial science-based field programs in nearly 60 countries.

“We work to protect and conserve wildlife and wild places around the globe. Our recommendations to you at the CoP were all based on science. We thank you for taking decisions that embrace the precautionary principle—taking decisions in the best interest of the species in the wild.

‘We particularly want to highlight and appreciate your decisions on proposals for the saiga antelope, mako sharks, guitarfish, wedgefish, tortoises, and so many more. Thank you as well for adopting strong resolutions and decisions dealing with many implementation and enforcement issues.

“On proposals, we cannot say it is a victory when species go from Appendix II to I, or Appendix II with a zero quota; it is bittersweet success, since it means that more and more species are threatened or endangered and need the full protection of Appendix I. Some of that is due to unsustainable trade due to weak implementation of CITES requirements, some is due to escalating illegal trade, and some is due to complex interactions of other threats reducing species populations in the wild, including climate change, disease, infrastructure development, and habitat loss. Yet you have taken strong conservation decisions—and now is the time to begin to implement them. We know that CITES works!

“WCS looks forward to continuing to work closely with you, the Parties, the Secretariat, and all our partners, to help ensure that the decisions you have made here are implemented effectively. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the new Appendix II listings (mako sharks and so many others) will be implemented effectively to ensure trade is legal and sustainable. And we commit to continuing to scale up our global efforts to combat the scourge of wildlife trafficking across the globe—from our on-the-ground work in the field to work to assist governments in anti-trafficking and enhanced enforcement. We also commit to sharing our technical and scientific expertise through the Animals and Standing Committees—to help implement the numerous decisions you have now adopted.

“In conclusion, the first paragraph of the CITES preamble states, “Recognizing that wild fauna and flora in their many beautiful and varied forms are an irreplaceable part of the natural systems of the earth which must be protected for this and the generations to come”.  Decisions you have t

aken here in Geneva truly embrace this spirit. Let us all work to see the day that international wildlife trade no longer threatens species in the wild.

“Thank you!  Nos vemos in Costa Rica.”

With the conclusion of CoP18, we particularly want to highlight and appreciate the science-based decisions on the following:


18 additional shark species were placed on Appendix II

Total Sweep for Sharks and Rays

This means that international trade in these species will be regulated, and countries will be incentivized to manage the fisheries for these species to ensure they are sustainable.


Saiga antelope received extra protections with a “zero quota” from the wild with an Appendix II listing.

Breaking News from CITES CoP18 on Saiga Antelope

No horn from wild saigas can be in international trade.


All nine recognized subspecies of giraffes across 19 range states were listed on Appendix II.

Good News for Giraffes at CITES CoP18

International trade of giraffe specimens will now be regulated for the first time.


The small-clawed and smooth-coated otters were placed on Appendix I – no more international trade. Their numbers are declining due to pollution, development and the pet, fur and skin trade.


Pancake tortoise and Indian star tortoise placed on Appendix I – no more international trade for these widely trafficked species.


There were extensive discussions on elephants and ivory.

Elephants and Ivory in the News at CITES CoP18

End results was mostly status quo for elephants, meaning trade protections were not weakened.


Parties directed Madagascar to pursue more effective solutions to address rosewood trafficking, such as securing existing stockpile, bringing them under government control; and prosecuting offenders.

WCS Welcomes Madagascar’s New Commitment to Halt Rosewood Trafficking


Parties called for research on songbirds to investigate the extent of the global songbird trade and the impact it is having on species.

Hearing the Cry of Songbirds

Songbirds may be silenced if we don’t take actions now on their behalf. Songbirds are under severe threat from habitat loss and exploitation for trade.


Parties failed to extend trade protections to glass frogs which face many threats including trafficking, disease and habitat destruction and degradation.

Glass Frogs under Threat in Latin America


The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) tool place in Geneva, Aug. 17-28, 2019. WCS is a strong supporter of CITES, has staff who have attended all meetings of the Conference of the Parties since CoP7 in 1989, and will be represented by many international wildlife and policy experts at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) in Geneva, Switzerland. WCS views on the proposals to amend the Appendices are based on the CITES listing criteria, the best available scientific and technical information, and information from our field and country programs around the world. To learn more about WCS recommendations go HERE. WCS’s ‘on-the-ground’ presence across much of the globe enables it to address multiple aspects of wildlife exploitation and trade, including wildlife crime, at all points along the trade chain in source, transit and consumer countries.