All You Need to Know about the Nov 14-25 Wildlife Trade Conference in Panama City, Panama
The 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP19) is taking place in Panama City, Panama from November 14-25, 2022. CITES CoP19 will be the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES held in Central and South America and the Caribbean since CITES came into force on 1 July 1975, but it will be the first held in the region since 2002.
The meeting will result in major decisions—on a global scale—on a large number of species subject to international trade, including many that are subject to poaching and trafficking.
WCS is a strong supporter of CITES, and has staff who have attended all meetings of the Conference of the Parties since CoP7 in 1989. WCS will be represented by many international wildlife and policy experts at CoP19. WCS staff at the CoP are from WCS Headquarters in the U.S., along with WCS offices and programs in Bangladesh, Belgium, China, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Rwanda, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
The head of the WCS delegation to the meeting, Dr. Susan Lieberman, WCS Vice President of International Policy and a CITES and wildlife trade expert, is available for comment/interview in advance and during the meeting and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or text through WhatsApp: + 44 7306 275626.
Interviews can also be arranged through Mary Dixon: email@example.com; or text through WhatsApp: +1-347-840-1242, or Stephen Sautner: firstname.lastname@example.org; or text through WhatsApp: +1 908 247 2585
Our position statements on proposals and documents (in English, French, and Spanish) can be found at www.wcs.org/cites, along with fact sheets on proposals to list freshwater turtles at CoP19 and materials on the shark proposals to be decided at CoP19. Highlights of key proposals are below:
Matamata Turtles (Chelus fimbriata, Chelus orinocensis)
Proposal: Include the only two species in the genus Chelus on Appendix II
The proposal clearly demonstrates the significantly increasing international trade in this unusual-looking species (including illegal trade), mostly for the pet and hobbyist markets. The species qualify for Appendix II. We know all too little about this species’ biology, particularly age to maturity in the wild and juvenile survivorship. Unlike many tropical turtles, the age to maturity appears to be protracted (evidence of limited captive breeding in zoos and private collections around the world). This lengthy time to maturity makes the species particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Inclusion in Appendix II will help ensure exports are legal and sustainable, and will stimulate improved management. Read more about the dynamics of the illegal trade of these two species.
Alligator Snapping Turtles
Proposal: Include the Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) and Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) in Appendix II
WCS strongly recommends adoption of the proposal submitted by the USA to include the Alligator snapping turtle (M. temminckii) and Common snapping turtle (C. serpentina) in Appendix II (the species are currently in Appendix III). The U.S. is experiencing a resurgence of unsustainable turtle trade and Appendix II is the principal CITES mechanism to address this. Hatchlings of Macrochelys are often mixed into large shipments of common snapping turtles to hide their presence. Both species have slow life history traits, including late sexual maturity, long adult lifespan, and extended reproductive lives, and are particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation. Appendix II listing for these species is the logical, precautionary, and conservation-minded approach.
Proposal: Include all species in the family Carcharhinidae in Appendix II
International trade is the major threat to this family of sharks. At least 39 species in the Requiem shark family have been documented in the fin markets of Hong Kong and Guangzhou, representing 46 percent of all species recorded in these markets. The proportional contribution (volume) of Requiem shark species in the global fin trade could be as high as 85.5 percent.
This Appendix II proposal would bring the majority of the shark fin trade under CITES Appendix II regulation (i.e., ensure sustainable, legal trade). Noting that Requiem sharks constitute at least 70 percent of the fin trade and over 68 percent of the family is threatened with extinction, such action is clearly critical given that the intent of CITES Appendix II is to regulate the trade in species not necessarily threatened with extinction but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
Songbirds: Straw Headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus)
Proposal: Transfer from Appendix II to I
The straw-headed bulbul, (Pycnonotus zeylanicus), is one of Southeast Asia’s most threatened bird species. It is declining rapidly across its range primarily as a result of trapping of wild birds for the cage-bird trade, compounded by habitat loss within its rather specific habitat type. Fifty years ago, the species was widespread in lowland riparian forests across much of Southeast Asia, but trapping for the songbird trade (both domestic and international) has caused its extirpation across most of its former range, including from inside protected areas. It is believed to be extinct in all of Thailand and Myanmar, as well as Java in Indonesia; it is believed to be almost extinct in Sumatra, and of 19 sites where the species was recorded in Borneo pre-2000, recent records indicate it was observed in less than half. With only an estimated 600-1,700 mature individuals remaining in the wild, the species is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered. The only population not known to be declining is that in Singapore, with an estimated 200-500 mature individuals. Prices for the birds in Indonesia continue to increase, so even as supply declines, demand evidently continues to rise. There is no evidence that captive breeding is alleviating the demand for wild-caught birds whose singing is deemed to be superior. WCS recommends that the only way to conserve the species is to prevent all further international commercial trade. Thus, WCS strongly recommends adoption of this proposal, and looks forward to working with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore in conserving the species.
Proposal: Include all species in the family in Appendix II
Glass frogs species are increasingly exploited, often illegally, for the pet and collectors’ trades (mostly to Europe and the USA). The great difficulty in distinguishing between different species and genera of the family Centrolenidae provides an opportunity for exploitation (and laundering) by those who desire to trade in rare or endangered species if only some, but not all, species of glass frogs were to be included in Appendix II. It is vital therefore to list all species in this family. That is in addition to the benefits of Appendix II, in helping to ensure that trade is legal and biologically sustainable, which will help reduce pressure on wild populations that are already threatened by habitat fragmentation, climate change, and disease.
WCS’s CWT efforts across the world
WCS’s ‘on-the-ground’ presence across much of the globe enables us 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.
WCS field research and related conservation efforts support the design and implementation of science-based conservation and management strategies that will not only conserve and protect species but also enhance sustainability in the exploitation of species while improving benefits to local communities and economies from sustainable use regimes, when relevant and appropriate.
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. WCS looks forward to working with the Parties during CoP19.
Issues other than species proposals
There are many issues to be discussed (and more than 80 agenda items other than species proposals) at the CITES meeting. WCS, based on our field, scientific, and technical expertise has made recommendations on several of those, which can be found at www.wcs.org/cites, and our experts are happy to answer any questions on this. In particular, we are focused on combatting wildlife trafficking, compliance, management of stockpiles, and key issues relevant to jaguars, tigers and other big cats, and the scientific integrity of the CITES listing criteria.
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